Acropolis access for disabled?

The Acropolis, the crowning architectural achievement of ancient Greece and the symbol of Athenian democracy will, probably for the first time in its 2,500-year history, be accessible to people with disabilities next year, if experts can do this without damaging the site’s aesthetics. The fortified hill, with the Parthenon and its other temples, is 156 meters high and is accessible only by a steep path of slippery, marble steps. But the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics will bring unprecedented numbers of visitors, many of them with disabilities, to the Greek capital. «I believe this is the most important thing that we can offer symbolically – to make the Parthenon accessible to all, not only through their looking at it but also by their visiting it, so that there is no distinction between people with disabilities and people without,» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday. «Therefore, I have instructed the technical and archaeological services of the Culture Ministry to examine all likely possibilities so that within a few months, we can decide on the most practical one. The one that can be applied without spoiling the aesthetics of the monument, so that in 2004, in one way or another (because we are examining a couple), access to the Acropolis can be secured for Greeks and foreign visitors on account of the Olympics and Paralympic Games,» Venizelos said. He did not elaborate on the possible methods. Archaeologists are likely to prevent any visible intrusion. Venizelos was speaking after the signing of a cooperation protocol between the International Paralympic Committee, the European Paralympic Committee and the European Forum for People with Disabilities, which includes a commitment to making public transportation and buildings accessible to people with disabilities.

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