Acropolis on course

A huge chunk of restoration work on Greece’s most famous landmark, the Acropolis citadel, will be completed by the end of next year and the government will make whatever funds are necessary available for the project to be entirely complete by 2020, the deputy culture minister said yesterday. «This is a national effort for which money is no object,» said Petros Tatoulis, after touring the site under the blistering hot Athens sun with a group of journalists to mark 30 years since the conservation project began. Tatoulis revealed that some 14 million euros would be spent on the work during 2005-06, the vast majority to be provided by the EU. He said that almost 18 million euros had been invested in the project between 2000 and 2004. So far, the only Acropolis monument to have been fully conserved – and partially restored – is the Erechtheion temple, at the citadel’s northern end. In April, Tatoulis indicated that the government might break a 30-year taboo by seeking private sponsorship for the works – just days after the Culture Ministry decided to charge multinational electronics giant Philips 7,043 euros for using the Acropolis in a global advertising campaign. Scaffolding on the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea monumental gates will come down by the end of next year, but restoration work on the Parthenon may then resume, the head of the ministry body overseeing works, the Conservation of Acropolis Monuments (YSMA), Maria Ioannidou said. Tatoulis said that work was «progressing at a satisfactory pace.» More than half the marble blocks from the three monuments have been treated and put back into place but there is still much painstaking work to do, the project chiefs explained. «We are treating each piece as an individual work of art. There has not been systematic support for the Acropolis monuments since the age of Pericles, so any delay is justified. The essence is the quality of the work involved and not the time,» said Professor Haralambos Bouras, a senior official on the project. The construction of the long-awaited and much-delayed Acropolis Museum would also be concluded by the end of next year, Tatoulis said, despite the financial problems that the contractor, ALTE, is currently facing. The total cost of the museum is estimated at129 million euros.

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