Half-built museum in 2004?

Greece’s main argument in favor of the Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon being returned to Athens before the Olympics may still look half-conceived in 2004. Presenting the generally pro-Greek findings of a new British poll on the question of the fifth-century BC works’ future home, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos admitted yesterday that the new Acropolis Museum would not be fully completed in time for the Games. «The building will not be fully ready to the extent that all its exhibition areas would be functional, but the building and the main display hall for the Parthenon sculptures will definitely be there,» Venizelos said, and denied that efforts to start building the 20,000-square-meter building – already three months behind schedule – have stagnated. «The project is proceeding as normal,» he said. «The target of having the edifice built by 2004 is perfectly attainable.» The Parthenon works are to occupy the uppermost of the 94-million-euro glass and concrete building’s three levels. It is there that Greece hopes to host the Elgin Collection in the event of its return from the British Museum. A survey in Britain by MORI pollsters on behalf of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles found that 56 percent of respondents favored Britain sending the sculptures back to Athens – on a one-off basis, provided the new Acropolis Museum is built, the British Museum retains ownership in the form of a long-term loan, and Greece sends exhibitions of its antiquities to London. Even then, 7 percent said Britain should hang on to the sculptures, removed by Lord Elgin at the beginning of the 19th century when Greece was still under Turkish occupation. The remaining 37 percent had no opinion on the matter.