Olympiakos

 

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Olympiakos

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Karaiskakis Stadium

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Comments

Anthony Joy

Match: Olympiacos vs Arsenal, Champions League Group Stage, 9th December 2015,

Published: 11/12/2015

 

In the Olympiacos disabled viewing area

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Anthony Joy

Match: Olympiacos vs Arsenal, Champions League Group Stage, 9th December 2015,

Published: 11/12/2015

 

Sometimes all the hours, money spent, and poor disabled facilities  you can experience in both your own country and across Europe find you questioning your own sanity.  Then there were nights like this!   Arsenal's final Champions League Group game took us to back to Athens for the third time in four years.  They say familiarity breeds contempt; well it also makes you fully aware of what awaits you. Athens as a wheelchair user is not easy but travelling with a group of six friends and staying in Piraeus Harbour; (this is much closer to the ground, has many pleasant bars and avoids the trek back to the city centre after the game) got me through. The Great Escape was on!

 

Getting There & Parking

We spent the day taking in the sights of Athens and got back to our hotel in Piraeus around 1800hrs, using the Athens Metro.

 

Arsenal did ask all supporters to use pre-arranged coaches from the city centre to the ground, citing potential disorder.  Never in my previous visits have we had a problem so we set off the for the Karaiskakis Stadium via the Metro.   Whererever you are staying you need to get Line 1 (Green Line) to the station of FALIRO.  This is directly at the stadium.  A lift takes you to a bridge and then use another lift to go back down to stadium level.   A day pass on the Metro is 4EURO.

 

Nearly all stations on the Athens metro have lift access and there is no step up or down to board the train.  There can be a gap however, so watch out if using a wheelchair or walking aid.   If you are a wheelchair user I suggest going to the end of the platform and boarding the very first doors.   This has a larger compartment for you to turn in.  Some trains have a strange pole in the middle of the door so a wheelchair couldn’t pass by.  The metro can get very busy coming from the centre of Athens so allow yourself time – you may miss the  first trains.   Coming from Piraeus direction is much quieter.

 

The stadium built for the 2004 Olympic Football tournament has housing to one side and derelict land on the other.   I didn’t see any designated disabled parking bays, but having experienced Athens traffic I strongly suggest getting the metro.

 

The stadium is surrounded by various stalls frying various kebabs or selling sunflower seeds.  Not many places evident to buy any beers.   The wheelchair area I had a ticket for was accessed by gate A2; this is around the corner from one of the ULTRA supporters areas so keep colours covered.

 

Getting a Ticket

Our tickets were arranged through Arsenal – I was the only  wheelchair to travel.  I had ticket 19 out of 20. I understood that a similar area existed at the other end of the ground.   40 spaces seems very few for a ground less than 15 years old, and one that has been in the Champions League for the last 10 years.   The tickets were complimentary for both wheelchair and companion but the companion will have to stand.  There are no seats provided.  Each wheelchair bay is numbered. You are of course in with the Olympiakos disabled supporters but the travelling fans are behind a huge Perspex screen, just behind you.

 

Due to new Greek legislation, each ticket has to have your name and passport number on it (and the stewards did check).   The steward had my name on a list and then escorted me to gate A2.  You enter up a long ramp to the raise platform.

 

Spectator Viewing areas

The wheelchair area at the stadium is good in my opinion.  I was directly in line with the corner flag but the raised level allows people to pass in front without spoiling the view.  I chatted to some of the Olympiakos fans before the game both admitting our nerves but both feeling confident.

 

The view was good – although like many grounds in Europe huge nets hang from the roof to stop objects being thrown.   Im glad this isn’t a trend in the UK. You can see the game however.  The atmosphere before kick off was incredible, as each end of Olympiakos fans tried to out sing the other.    That soon changed when Arsenal scored! I didn’t feel intimidated showing I was an Arsenal fan or cheering when we scored. In all honesty the Olympiakos fans were quite welcoming.

 

Amenities

There were 2 accessible toilets on the left as you enter up the ramp to the viewing area.  I  didn’t have need to use them but a quick glance suggested they were off a good size with plenty of drop down handles.

 

Services

There was no accessible kiosk/service counter in the area Iwas in.  I noticed the companions of other wheelchair users entering the main stand via the stairs to bring back drinks and food.  I was on my own so that wasn’t an option for me.

 

After Arsenal pulled off the Great Escape to qualify for the last 16, I hung around for 10 minutes to join in with the Arsenal fans singing in an empty stadium.  By the time I exited the stadium the crowd had gone and I waited for my friends to be allowed to leave the away section.  The Police will direct you out to the road to walk toward either coaches or the metro station.   If a wheelchair user you need to speak with the Police or steward to allow you to exit via one of the turnsiltes as there are barriers from the road to the lift to the station that a wheelchair cannot pass through.   I had to lift myself and balance on one of these barriers while my friends lifted my chair over.   Not recommended. Once back in Piraeus, just before 1am we headed to an open bar to down many celebratory beers!

 

Athens in general

Travelling from the Airport is easy.  A cab is an option but it’ll cost you 50-70EUROS and traffic is a nightmare.   I suggest getting the metro into Athens at a cost of 8EUROS.  Take Line 3 (Blue line).  The journey into Athens takes around 40 minutes.  Most metro stations have lift access.

 

The streets make getting around quite difficult; huge cobble stones are added to by broken pavements.   The kerbs are pretty big; where there are dropped kerbs there is still a 5cm drop to the road, if a driver hasn’t parked across the kerb itself.

 

Accessible toilets were as always in short supply, however I did find one in Starbucks up from Monastiraki market.

 

The city centre is around Syntagma Square, where the Parliament and the Panathenaic Stadium is stadium are within walking distance.

 

No trip to Athens is complete without a trip to the Acropolis, to see the Parthenon Temple.   If you are planning on going, take the Metro to Thissio and head up the pedestrianised road to the base of the entrance road.   Here any wheelchair user will need help.   The cobbles are big and the incline is steep.   Once at the ticket booth (entry is12EUROS) you’ll be taken down a side road to use a stair lift up 20 steps to a platform.  Then you have to enter what I can only describe as a minors shaft lift to the top of the Acropolis.  The cage is narrow but should accommodate most wheelchairs. Once at the top, the surface is very, very difficult but you should be able to pick a path.  It is worth persevering here – this is of course a world heritage site and given its stood since 500 years BC, you need to see it.   Take your time, and rest up before and after. Its hard work up there and Im nursing several blisters from getting over the rock.  Very glad I did it though.

 

All in all, another superb trip.

 

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