Open-air theater suddenly shut down

Athens municipal authorities suddenly ordered the closure of the city’s Lycabettus Theater for «safety reasons» yesterday afternoon just a few hours before the popular British singer James Blunt was to perform, frustrating thousands of ticket holders and Blunt’s band. City Hall said the capital’s largest open-air venue would remain off limits «indefinitely,» citing calls by the Tourism Development Agency (ETA) for tests to be conducted to determine the stability of the theater’s bleachers. ETA had first called for these inspections last February but later retracted its appeal. City Hall said it was honoring «the original request of the (theater’s) owner, namely ETA,» to suspend the operation of the theater for the study to be carried out. The Greek Festival, the organizer of yesterday’s scheduled concert by Blunt and of a series of gigs earlier this month by big names, including Mark Knopfler and Nick Cave, said City Hall’s decision was «inexplicable.» Blunt’s entourage reportedly was denied access to the theater to collect equipment left there after Wednesday night’s opening gig and had not announced any alternative venue for the scheduled concert by late last night. The Greek Festival’s director, Giorgos Loukos, called the move a financial «disaster,» as it will lead to the cancellation of a string of scheduled events and disappoint agents, artists and music lovers. «This unfortunate development is a great blow to an established institution… and will lead to the public and artists losing faith in Greek events,» a festival statement said.