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Champions League final: Atatürk's 'special soul'

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Three years and some major refurbishments later, Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium is finally set to have its moment in the sun – one more time.

UEFA via Getty Images

Immortalised as the scene of the 2005 Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan, the Atatürk Olympic Stadium has undergone extensive renovations in the lead-up to this season’s long-awaited showpiece.

First opened in 2002, the venue was originally scheduled to stage its second final in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw the event switched to Lisbon in 2020 and Porto a year later.

The Champions League trophy sits on the Atatürk pitch
The Champions League trophy sits on the Atatürk pitchUEFA via Getty Images

The delay means the Atatürk now boasts a new hybrid pitch and overhauled floodlighting to go with rebuilt dressing rooms, boxes, VIP lounges and media facilities. In addition, the athletics track around the pitch has been lowered to offer better sightlines for spectators.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin:

"Two outstanding teams have earned their shot at the legendary trophy in what promises to be a very special match. All the ingredients are there, including the venue itself, as the world’s best football competition returns to the legendary Atatürk Olympic Stadium. The 2005 final was one of the greatest-ever finals in sports history, and we are all hoping to witness another magical night of football."

"We have renovated the stadium in line with modern standards,” says Champions League final ambassador Hamit Altıntop, who believes the ground carries "a special soul" thanks to Liverpool’s ‘Miracle of Istanbul’. "Younger fans may not remember the stadium from 18 years ago, but older fans will feel the connection as soon as they see the stands."

2005 Istanbul Champions League final highlights: Milan 3-3 Liverpool (2-3 pens)

The same goes for the stadium’s most eye-catching feature: the crescent-shaped roof covering the west stand, a fitting touch for a venue named after Türkiye’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Home of Süper Lig outfit Fatih Karagümrük, the arena is now ready for the next chapter in its already storied history, with approximately 72,000 fans set to be there to witness it.

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