British poll raises hopes in many quarters

Results of a recent public opinion poll in Britain showing support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece have raised hopes in many quarters. But there are still practical problems in the way. First and foremost among these is the progress – or lack thereof – in the Acropolis Museum now under construction, which has become bogged down in judicial and bureaucratic disputes. Even if the British Museum did decide to give Greece the Marbles, which were taken away two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, the process of organizing their return to Greece should have begun months ago. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos is talking about the possible completion of the museum’s outer shell and a ground floor hall. No one can overlook the change in public opinion. The climate created by the results of opinion polls showing that 73 percent and 81 percent of Britons believe that the Parthenon sculptures should be returned or loaned to their country of origin is more than optimistic. Meanwhile, 67 percent of visitors to the British Museum also expressed their approval of the idea. Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said recently that such «massive public backing» for the Marbles’ return did not leave politicians any margin to decide otherwise. He was speaking at a meeting held by the support group Marbles Reunited, attended by Cultural Olympiad President Evgenios Yiannakopoulos and Professor Dimitris Pandermanlis, who referred to the specifications for the new museum. After the poll results were announced, representatives of the group (which is headed by Peter Chegwyn) went to Parliament House to meet with 60 members of Parliament from both sides of the House. Venizelos said last week that Greece had fought a «crazed» court battle over the issue of the new Acropolis Museum. «How is it possible for what is more or less the same group of people to consider it self-evident that we can accomplish a very specific technique for laying the foundations for major technical works in Akrotiri on the island of Santorini, and that the same technique, on a much smaller scale, could create problems in the residential heart of Athens?» he said. «The contractor has been chosen and has the legal right to move in, it is technically possible to have the outer shell built by August and one ground floor hall. How is all this to be done?» asked Venizelos. «Naturally, if work goes ahead without any interruptions from the courts, the whole job could be finished in a very short time.» he added. Former Labour Party MP Chris Price said no one could guarantee the Marbles would be returned in time for the Olympics because the museum was not ready. One wonders if anyone can guarantee it for after the Games.

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