Thieves loot museum at Ancient Olympia

Police were still looking late Friday for two men suspected of stealing dozens of antiquities from a museum in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, earlier in the day.

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos tendered his resignation after the incident, which made headlines around the world, but at the time of print it was not yet clear whether it had been accepted by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

Police said two armed men, with their faces covered, stormed into the museum at 7.35 a.m. and overpowered the only security guard at the time, a 48-year-old woman. The suspects tied up the guard, who had just deactivated the alarm, and demanded two golden wreaths. On being told that the wreaths are not kept at the museum, the thieves used the butts of their guns to break through display cases, making off with 65 artifacts. ?Bronze and clay objects, and a gold ring? have been removed, according to police. The value of the looted objects, most dating from the 9th-4th century BC, was not known.

Roadblocks were set up around Olympia and a helicopter scoured the wider area as police continued to search for the suspects.

?A second important museum has been robbed and submitting my resignation to the prime minister was a self-evident moral imperative and political decision,? Geroulanos, who traveled to the Peloponnesian town Friday, told Kathimerini.

Last month, a painting by Pablo Picasso was stolen from the National Gallery along with two other works of art. Critics say that cuts and layoffs in the public sector have compromised security at the country?s cultural sites.

?The level of security is indeed lacking,? Olympia Mayor Efthimios Kotzas told state television. ?A piece of heritage has been lost… I think [authorities] should have been more mindful and the security more stringent.?