The long-awaited and much-delayed Acropolis Museum will be ready by the end of next year, the government said yesterday, while insisting that it would keep up its efforts toward the return of the Elgin Marbles so they can be housed in the new building. Construction of the museum, a few hundred meters from the Acropolis, was meant to have been finished in time for last year’s Athens Olympics. However, legal wrangles and delays due to archaeological finds on the site of the 20,000-square-meter building have meant that only the underground four-level section of the building has been completed so far. «We have now reached the most crucial point of the project, with construction of the parts of the structure that will isolate and protect it from earthquakes,» said Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis. A new contractor took over the project in August after the previous one ran into financial problems. On a tour of the site yesterday, Tatoulis said that the above-ground structure of the museum would be ready by March. This will leave just the huge glass panels that are to form the outer cover of the building to be put in place. Glass has been incorporated into the design to allow plenty of natural light into the building and to give visitors a clear view of the Acropolis. Despite concerns about the quality of the work carried out by the previous contractor, officials are confident of the end-product. «The quality of the project is being checked daily by a technical department that we have created,» said project director Dimitris Pantermalis. «There is nothing to worry about.» Meanwhile, Greece will keep up its efforts to reclaim the fifth-century-BC sculptures removed from the Acropolis by Lord Elgin and now housed in the British Museum in London. «We are continuing to compete for them,» said Tatoulis. He added that he will meet in Athens next week with the heads of international groups that back Greece’s demands. The majority of restoration work on the Acropolis itself is due to be completed by the end of next year and the government has said it will make the necessary funds available for the project to be concluded by 2020.