Olympia restoration approved

The Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) yesterday approved a study for the regeneration of the area around Ancient Olympia which was ravaged by fire in August, but sources said it will take some 20 years before the site is fully restored. The study, discussed yesterday by KAS officials, foresees the reconstruction of the site, the planting of tens of thousands of plants – including certain new «fire-resistant» varieties – and the implementation of additional measures to avert another fire. A total of 30,000 trees and shrubs – compared to some 100,000 that had existed on the site before the fires – are to be planted over the next three years. The first stage of regeneration is to involve structural work and some planting. The Hill of Cronus, which bore the brunt of the damage wreaked by August’s blaze, is to be reinforced using thick wooden planks from old railway tracks. The hill is also to be planted with seeds and covered with a protective natural fiber that disintegrates after a few years. Culture Minister Michalis Liapis has pledged that work on the hill will be completed in time for the lighting of the Olympic Torch for the Beijing Games next March. Some 2 million euros has been invested in these materials. Another 2 million euros will be spent on creating a new forest with 26 different types of trees and shrubs, including oaks, holly, laurels and olive trees. The area around the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games whose heart is buried near the site, is also to be spruced up with grass paths and new plants. The National Agricultural Research Foundation has recommended the use of wide-leafed «fire-resistant» plants and the removal from the site of eucalyptus trees, which are highly flammable. Firefighting equipment on the site – water canons and hoses – is to be boosted as the previous system «was not adequate,» according to KAS. The size of the water canons is to be increased and a zone some 40 meters south of the site may be deforested as an additional fire precaution.