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Turkey hosts 2005 Champions final

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NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) -- Newly-installed UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson swept aside all security fears when he confirmed that the 2005 Champions League final will be in Istanbul.

It is the first time that a major European soccer final has been scheduled to take place in Turkey.

The 2005 UEFA Cup final goes to Lisbon while the Meridian Cup, played between eight Under-17 national teams from Europe and Africa, would also be staged in Turkey in 2005.

Speaking after UEFA's executive awarded Europe's showpiece club event to the 80,000 Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Olsson said he was satisfied by the security guarantees given by the Turks.

"The conditions there are the same, generally, as for all countries and they have given guarantees," he said.

"This is important, especially since their experiences last autumn. We have also asked for additional investments in the infrastructure around the stadium and they have agreed to this, too."

Olsson added that he felt it was important that UEFA's major finals were not always held in the same countries, but are moved around the continent.

A spokesman for the Turkish FA said they were proud that Istanbul had been chosen.

"We are deservedly proud. Hosting the match is the result of the undertaking we began in the international arena with our joint bid with Greece for the 2008 European Championships.

"This major success gives us the morale and support for even bigger undertakings. The federation will continue to seek out new and bigger projects," the TFF said.

UEFA's decision to hold the Champions League final in Istanbul comes in spite of a series of outbursts of violence and other problems relating to matches involving Turkish and English clubs held in the city.

Olsson, however, supported the Istanbul venue saying: "It has a huge capacity of 80,000 and it is an area (of Europe) that has not hosted a final before. They have complied with everything we have asked of them."

The award is also seen as recognition of Turkey's advancement as a soccer-playing nation, despite its shock failure to qualify for the Euro 2004 finals.

Olsson said that Lisbon deserved to be awarded the UEFA Cup final for Portugal's exceptional preparation for the 2004 European Championship finals.

Explaining why the three British stadiums, in Glasgow, Newcastle and Sunderland had been overlooked for the UEFA Cup final, Olsson said this was because two European Cup finals had been held recently in Britain.

He said that St James' Park, Newcastle, was the reserve stadium to host the UEFA Cup final.

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