Marbles: Good news and bad

As new poll data published yesterday showed that 81 percent of Britons back a long-term loan of the Elgin, or Parthenon, Marbles to Greece, Athens yesterday admitted that the new museum in which it proposes to display the sculptures will be far from completion during the Summer Olympics. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the 94-million-euro project for a new museum in the Makriyianni district under the ancient citadel – already some 19 months behind schedule – fell foul of court challenges brought by archaeologists and local residents, who argue that the building will irreparably damage important antiquities found on the site. «We had to cope with a rabid, unprecedented legal fight,» he said. The matter is now in the hands of Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of State. When asked to what extent the building will have progressed by August, when the Olympics are to begin, Venizelos did not sound too confident. «The contractor has been chosen… and the country has the technical possibility of having the shell of the museum and a ground-floor hall for a temporary exhibition ready by August,» he said. «It is a true shame; it is annoying; it is well below our expectations… that, at this point where we have such a response in Britain, we should be discussing the legal aspects of the New Acropolis Museum project,» Venizelos fumed. In London yesterday, British backers of Greece’s bid for the return of the fifth century BC sculptures launched a new pressure group called Marbles Reunited. The group presented the findings of a poll carried out in the UK last month, according to which 81 percent of respondents thought the works should be lent to Greece.

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