August 16, 2004

Greece urges gesture on Elgin Marbles

Posted at 11:10 pm in Elgin Marbles

Yet again, no one is available to comment at the British Museum when the press contact them about the Elgin Marbles.


Greece urges gesture on Elgin Marbles
Wed 11 August, 2004 21:42
By Dina Kyriakidou

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece has called on Britain to use the occasion of the Athens Olympics to promise to return the Elgin Marbles.

“The Olympics are starting now and we would very much like a commitment for their return,” said Culture Ministry official Elena Korka.

In London, no British officials were available for comment, but Britain’s line has always been it has no plans to hand back the 5th century BC masterpieces that were taken from the Parthenon temple by Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, in 1803.

The British Museum, which holds the sculptures, says there is no sense in returning them as more people can see them where they are.

The marbles have been a burning issue between Britain and Greece since the 1980s when actress turned culture minister Melina Mercouri launched a high-profile drive for their return.

Greece had hoped a museum it planned to build at the foot of the Acropolis in time for the August 13-29 Games would put pressure on the British Museum to send the marbles back.

Culture ministers had said throngs of Olympic tourists visiting the museum and noticing empty spots awaiting the sculptures would force Britain to give back the artefacts.

But the project was dogged by delays, mainly due to lawsuits by wealthy neighbours blocking construction, and Greece abandoned hope that it would be ready for the Games.

The Supreme Court cleared the way two weeks ago for building to begin and the project’s head said the museum would be ready in two-and-a-half years.

After many years of wrangling with London over the sculptures, Greece has taken a softer approach, proposing a joint exhibition in the new museum and to lend other Greek art to Britain in exchange.

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