NEWS

Foreign intellectuals slam Olympic works at Marathon site

A group of 23 intellectuals has written to a British newspaper calling for the construction of the Olympic rowing center at Schinias to be stopped, saying that the project will «irrevocably destroy the site of the Battle of Marathon and the contemporary monuments erected to commemorate it.» The letter, published yesterday by the Daily Telegraph, is signed by, among others, Dr Mark Hassall, president of the Royal Archaeological Institute; Prof. Simon Hornblower, professor of classics and ancient history, University College London; the composer Michael Nyman; Dr Sean Kingsley, editor, Minerva; and Professor Thomas Drew-Bear, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France. The letter noted that in 2002 a Bronze Age village was found at the site. «The Greek government has played down the importance of this archaeological site as only comprising a few small houses that stood by a swamp, but they are in fact some of the earliest (2500-2000 BC) monumental structures in Greece,» the letter said. «Now that this new evidence has come to light, work at Marathon should stop, and the international community should at the very least be given assurances that the archaeology will be respected and fully documented,» it added. «In years to come, when the Games are long forgotten, future generations will not forgive this vandalism,» the writers warned. The rowing center at the site of Marathon, where Greeks beat an invading Persian army in 490 BC, caused a heated clash between Olympics organizers on the one side and archaeologists and environmental groups on the other. Work has continued, however, with government and Athens 2004 officials saying both the antiquities and the environment would be protected. EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom visited the site in January and said: «This was a very, very controversial site but I can see… that a lot of good work has been done… Something that looked like an environmental problem is starting to look like an opportunity.»