Cultural Olympiad is getting back on track

The board of directors of the Hellenic Culture Organization SA, which is in charge of the Cultural Olympiad, finally convened last Saturday in a spirit of optimism, and set about tidying up loose ends and pushing through pending decisions. The first issue on the board’s agenda, which was appointed just one-and-a-half months ago, was to address the cancellation of pivotal events in the Cultural Olympiad’s program, such as the International Theatrical Monologues which were to be held at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus and the Roman Agora in Athens, and the «Opera of the Earth» at Ancient Olympia in July. Both these events were canceled due to foot-dragging by the previous board and unacceptable delay by the current board in taking firm grip of the organization’s helm. The «Opera of the Earth» issue is an ongoing saga on which much money has already been spent. Whether it will, after all, take place, albeit at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall next winter instead of at Ancient Olympia this summer, depends on the Orchestra of Colors’ budget. Another issue debated at the meeting was the Attica Cultural Organization’s bid to be reimbursed 43,000 euros for expenses incurred while preparing the now-canceled International Theatrical Monologues. The initial response by board Chairman Georgia Iliopoulou was positive, but after many of the board members disagreed, the issue was shelved. It will be discussed at a future date. The next item on the agenda was for the board to sign the contracts for events that are already in the pipeline – the fact that they haven’t been signed yet is rather shocking – such as a Bavarian State Ballet performance at the Herod Atticus Theater, Yukio Ninagawa’s production of «Oedipus Rex» (also at the Herod Atticus), the Henry Moore retrospective at the National Sculpture Gallery in Goudi and an exhibition of Aboriginal art at the Benaki Museum. The board also deliberated upon a request by the Greek Playwrights Society as part of a worldwide campaign to promote modern Greek theatrical works. The first phase of this initiative, which is already well under way, concerns the translation and promotion of modern Greek plays abroad. The society has asked the board to further examine the possibility of funding, in whole or in part, foreign productions of modern Greek plays around the world. The board, however, did not agree to 50 percent funding of all plays. Instead, it agreed to set up a committee to evaluate the quality and cost of foreign productions, and decide on its advice what level of funding they are to receive, if any. The costs of funding the French Circus Academy’s September production of Manos Hadjidakis’s «Birds,» budgeted at 1.5 million euros, sparked strong reactions from the board, which decided to ask Hadjidakis’s son to renegotiate the financial terms with the respected French troupe before readdressing the issue at a later date. On a more upbeat note, the Piraeus Municipality’s «Classic Week» event (an exhibition of replicas of ancient ships) had its funding increased to 800,000 euros. It is worth noting that this event was only announced as being on the Cultural Olympiad’s agenda just a month before the March 7 general elections, when it was agreed that it will receive 650,000 euros in funding. Furthermore, one of the members of the new board is Piraeus Mayor Christos Agrapidis. Another event on the Olympiad’s program that was previously unannounced is an exhibition titled «Immigrants – Utopia,» organized by the Thessaloniki branch of the Olympiad, which will receive 125,000 euros. Another project to receive funding is the Ioannina Regional Municipal Theater’s production of «Erophile,» directed by Giorgos Bakolas. Whether this performance should be included on the Olympiad’s bill and whether it meets all the artistic requirements was debated at the meeting until, finally, it was decided that the production will receive 200,000 euros.

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