CULTURE

Change of guard at top of Cultural Olympiad

The change of leadership in the Cultural Olympiad took place in a friendly atmosphere last week. The ceremony involved the usual patting on the back, right at the moment when serious questions have been raised regarding the cancellation of two of the Cultural Olympiad’s much-anticipated productions and when debts of billions of euros are still pending. Deputy Minister of Culture Petros Tatoulis did not allow any questions to be asked and referred the journalists to a future press conference, after the new board of directors has been fully informed. The deputy minister only hinted at the newspaper articles, by stressing that transparency was the goal they were aiming at. «I would like to publicly thank the previous political leadership as well as the departing board of the Hellenic Culture Organization for all their efforts.» «We are here to continue an effort, to correct possible mistakes and to achieve effective and recognizable action from all citizens,» said the new president of the Cultural Olympiad, Stamatis Mavros. Evgenios Giannakopoulos, the departing president, described the situation as «sufficiently satisfactory.» Giannakopoulos went into more detail in a letter to Kathimerini, in which he said that the description of a collapsing institution was inaccurate and he stated the reasons which led to the cancellation of the «International Theatrical Monologues» and the «Opera of the Earth.» «The theatrical monologues were a very difficult undertaking from the beginning. The final suggestions made after a long period of discussions and pressure upon the artistic bureau responsible far exceeded the budget. A reconsideration has been requested and a new suggestion has been submitted, which has yet to be discussed by the new board. The Cultural Olympiad never made any commitments with particular artists; on the contrary, it kept reminding, also in written form, this lack of commitment to the artistic bureau in question, so as to avoid negativity in case the program was not materialized or was altered. The publication of names of well-known international artists as participants in the program which the Cultural Olympiad supposedly canceled were just suggestions submitted by the bureau. The Cultural Olympiad did not and could not have made these names public, because there was no legally binding [agreement]. The publicizing [of the fact] could only come from third parties who had their own reasons to create an atmosphere of guilt by using names of well-known artistic personae and to eventually exert pressure.» Regarding the «Opera of the Earth,» «the main problem lay in choosing an institution that would have experience in such large-scale productions and could carry it out. The Athens Concert Hall agreed to take the production on, after our request. It has prepared a production plan, which will be submitted to the new board.» Concerning the finances: «The Cultural Olympiad has 4.2 million euros, which is sufficient to cover its current obligations. The 2004 budget, which was approved by the former board, is going as planned. In the cultural events department a 25.5-million-euro budget has been drawn up, which will pay off all of the Cultural Olympiad’s program (including the two aforementioned events) and which will also give a rough 5-million-euro surplus (therefore the final cost will amount to about 20.5 million euros).»