On Athens sea front, a hub of construction

A bustling construction site is a rare site in crisis-hit Greece. However, on the grounds of the former horse-racing track in Kallithea, over 500 construction workers are feverishly working toward the completion of a 566-million-euro project that will include a new national library and opera house. The complex, which is being constructed and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), is expected to open in early 2016. A 3-hectare park adjacent to the future landmarks and managed by the Kallithea Municipality, will preview in August.

The foundation recently invited a group of journalists to visit the site that will house the cultural complex.

“Our pace has intensified,” Theodore Maravelias, an architectural engineer and head of the foundation’s technical department, told Kathimerini.

“This is one of the most complex projects that has ever taken place in Greece, so it is vital that we constantly increase our speed. Today, there are 500 people working on the site, but soon there will be 1,500 and the seven cranes we are currently using will soon become 10. The 100 specialized machines we have employed make this the densest project in terms of technical support. And as digging is also progressing smoothly, everything suggests that the excavation work will be completed in 2013.”

Meanwhile, excavations taking place on the southern part of the site have revealed a particularly interesting discovery.

“Above the Archaic cemetery [7th-6th century BC], which is currently being excavated, we found some bizarre burials,” said Stella Chrisoulaki, the director of excavations.

“We found people who had not been buried properly, but rather were just left in the sand without offerings. The skeletons show signs of physical abuse, and several even have their hands tied with chains. We still can’t accurately date the remains, but laboratory results will give us more details,” she added.

According to archaeologists, the dead had most likely been executed and their bodies disposed of in ditches as the utmost form of dishonor.

Meanwhile, as a crucial project capable of changing the country’s cultural landscape progresses, society continues to suffer from a lack of public resources.

As was to be expected, those involved with the ambitious project have expressed concern regarding the current state of the country’s cultural landmarks.

“The National Library is in a state of decline. It is not fulfilling its mission, and even worse, it is not aware of its mission,” said the president of the National Library’s supervisory council, Stavros Zouboulakis.

“The arts are not meant for a select few people. It’s important that in this period, such institutions can provide cultural justice,” added the artistic director of the Greek National Opera, Myron Michailidis.

“In these difficult days, the private sector must work selflessly with the state in order to pave the way toward a better future,” the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Maravelias said.

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