NEWS

Grand opening in June

The long-awaited opening of Athens's New Acropolis Museum, a controversial glass-and-concrete construction that has been designed to accommodate the missing Parthenon Marbles, is to take place on June 20, the culture minister revealed yesterday. Antonis Samaras announced the inauguration date yesterday following talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at Maximos Mansion. It was the fourth time the museum's inauguration has been heralded since ruling New Democracy came to power in March 2004. The original plan had been to open the new museum ahead of the 2004 Olympics with the aim of stressing the absence of the Parthenon Marbles from the museum at a time that Greece was the focus of global attention. The British Museum refuses to give up the sculptures that it acquired after Lord Elgin hacked them out of the Parthenon 200 years ago. A string of hiccups and delays in fine-tuning the exhibition space in the Athens museum has postponed the scheduled opening several times. But Samaras said yesterday that the exhibition blueprint finally got rubber-stamped this week. The minister said that the inauguration of the museum, a 129-million-euro creation by Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi, would put Greece back on the map culturally and claimed it could even help fight the impact of the global financial crisis. «Greek culture is a source of wealth for our country and, during these difficult and crucial times for our economy, we owe it to ourselves to highlight it as much as possible and exploit it to the full,» he said. The minister did not reveal any details about the inauguration ceremony but he did say that plans for a 6-million-euro spectacle had been scrapped in favor of a more modest celebration that would not exceed 3.5 million euros. «We are cutting spending where we can but the fundamentals will remain untouched,» Samaras said without elaborating. The minister said that details about the inauguration would be given during a press conference on Monday.

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