SOCIETY

Ancient Nemea on the brink of closure, again

ancient-nemea-on-the-brink-of-closure-again

One of the Peloponnese’s most fascinating and well-developed sites – Ancient Nemea – is again on the brink of closure due staff shortages. On October 31, the fixed-term contracts of the site’s 13 guards, two gardeners and one cleaning lady expired, and it is unclear whether they will be replaced. In the meantime, the site is operating with eight guards, three of whom are on temporary loan from the municipal authority, which is below the minimum number required to keep the large expanse safe and who work only on weekdays. The site is already shut on weekends, losing out on a significant amount of visitors and revenues, and unless the staff problem is rectified may be forced to close to the public.

The head of the Nemea excavations and the site’s renovation, Dr Stephen Miller, a permanent resident of the area, has been disappointed by successive governments’ handling of Greece’s archaeological sites, and in 2013 – when the site faced the same threat – he went as far as to write an open letter to the general public highlighting the problems.

“In the past seven months we have seen an increase in visitors of some 53 percent. Many touring buses were making stops at Nemea and the site was gradually becoming a point on the maps of travel agents. The revenues for the state, in short, were satisfactory. Next Sunday, I’m expecting a large group from the Mensa society that I will be showing around. I wonder whether Nemea will be open to them,” says Miller, who is worried that the site may have to be shut down.

According to Miller, for the site to be adequately secure during the day and at night, he needs at least another five permanent guards. “The distance between the stadium, the temple and the museum is too big to be covered by such a small number of people,” he says. “Unfortunately some visitors think it’s a good idea to add their name beside those of the athletes that have survived since antiquity, so you understand how important guards are.”

One solution that Miller has been informed of was put forward by Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, who is well acquainted with the problem, and that is to have staff from other parts of the civil service transferred to the site to work as guards.

Miller, however, is skeptical about how practical this would be.

“The issue is that we had 13 people with skills, knowledge, a second language and enthusiasm, who were invaluable to the smooth functioning of the site and informing visitors,” he says. “Greek governments must finally start to think differently and take advantage of this country’s treasures.”