In a first tangible indication that plans to build a new Acropolis Museum under the ancient citadel are still alive, the government has awarded the 50-million-euro contract to Greek construction firm ALTE, a report said yesterday. The Athens News Agency said ALTE had been declared «provisional» winner of the tender after bids were opened on Tuesday. The contract calls for completion of the project within two years, which confirms that the museum will not be ready in time for next summer’s Olympics, as Athens had initially maintained. However, the deal involves completion of the «external shell» of the building nine months after construction starts, according to ANA. This would seem to bear out government pledges that at least part of the museum will be standing in August 2004. Availability of the museum during the Games is a basic tenet of Greece’s campaign for the return of the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon, even as a loan. Originally, the building’s foundations were supposed to have been laid in the summer of 2002.