CULTURE

Country readies itself to host the big event

It’s a different August in a different Athens. «Once again the Greeks have managed it,» say the foreign visitors, athletes and journalists, who are already imbibing the intense air of Athens, host to the Olympic Games, which are returning to their homeland. Even the Cassandras of the Australian press have changed their tune and started praising the calm and security that reign, even saying that the Olympic Village is better than Sydney’s. Alan Riding of The New York Times, in an article reprinted in The International Herald Tribune, wrote from London, «For the Olympics, Greeks already lose one contest.» He was referring to the non-restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, which would have been a wonderful thing and a magnet for foreign tourists had the Acropolis Museum, the most appropriate place for them, been built in time to house them. But while just five days remain until the opening ceremonies, the president of the New Acropolis Museum construction organization, Dimitris Pantermalis, said in the presence of Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis at the Weiler building, «Everything is ready and work is starting on the museum,» which is expected to be ready in 2006. Then the call must be heard once again – the voice of international public opinion and of the Greek government – for the return from exile of the 2,500-year-old sculptures which are listed by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage. The Panathenaic Procession – which Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon frieze in 1801, since which time the Marbles have waiting to return – has inspired a work by artist and Fine Arts School Professor Sotiris Sorogas. The line running through his «Panathenaic Procession» is like the line that separates the traffic lane for the Olympic family from the lane for private traffic, and with which drivers are complying, to the surprise of foreign visitors. «First the Euro 2004 soccer final, and now the Olympic Games, it looks as if the Greeks are ready to pull off the double of all time,» say the foreign sportswriters and television commentators. And we Greeks are not going to be the ones to contradict them.