June 23, 2004

Acropolis restoration will miss the Olympic deadline

Posted at 11:27 am in Acropolis, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Many people will disappointed that the ongoing restoration works to the Athenian Acropolis will miss the completion deadline of the forthcoming Olympics. However, it is far better that the restoration works are carried out correctly & not rushed, rather than artefacts being possibly damaged in the race to give the impression that the works are completed by a specific date (a date that was never known about when the restoration works began).


Athens treasures will miss Games deadline
Tue 22 June, 2004 05:02
By Daniel Howden

ATHENS (Reuters) – Visitors to August’s Athens Olympics wanting to see classical treasures such as the temple of Athena Nike or the northern colonnade of the Parthenon will have to make do with buying picture postcards instead.

Construction workers stalk the dusty halls of some of the city’s finest museums while priceless sections of the Acropolis have been dismantled and taken to the cleaners.

Seven years after Greece won its bid to bring the Games back to their birthplace, the country’s cultural venues are proving even more difficult to get ready than their sporting counterparts.

Culture ministry officials, who had hoped to have the city’s landmark monument, the Acropolis, looking its best by August, have conceded that scaffolding will be obscuring the view when Olympic tourists arrive.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Jeffrey Carson, a United States art historian and classical scholar who lives in Greece.

“The Acropolis has been deconstructed and it’s inconceivable that it will be put back exactly as it was.

“This was built by the greatest architect the world has known,” he added.

The exquisite temple of Athena Nike, part of the same fourth century temple complex, is also an Olympic no-show. It was dismantled for renovation and simply cannot be put back together in time.

“Although it is the smallest classical monument on the Acropolis, it turned out to be the biggest problem,” said Haralambos Bouras chief of the Acropolis conservation committee.

The northern colonnade of the Parthenon would not be ready until 2006, officials said.

The good news is that the renovated western frieze of the Parthenon will be back on show in July.


The new Acropolis Museum, which was supposed to increase pressure on the British government to return the contested Parthenon Marbles, has not risen beyond its foundations.

Billed as the new home for the masterpiece friezes, controversially removed in the 19th century by Lord Elgin and now housed in the British Museum in London, it will not even be partially ready come the start of the Olympic Games on August 13.

The project, stuck on the drawing board for three decades, has drowned under a wave of objections from archaeologists and local residents who contested that the construction would destroy precious antiquities.

The national archaeological museum, Athens’s answer to the Louvre in Paris, closed for a major overhaul two years ago and will only partially reopen in August.

Despite centuries of pilfering by foreign archaeologists the museum still houses the world’s finest collection of Hellenic antiquities.

This treasure trove includes the glittering collection of Mycenean gold with its chief masterpiece, the Mask of Agamemnon.

What the museum did not have were lifts or air conditioning and staff became experienced at administering first aid to visitors who fainted from the heat.

To make matters worse, a major earthquake that struck the Greek capital in 1999 left the building with a lattice-work of cracks.

Original restoration plans were attacked as piecemeal and the National Architects’ Association blocked work on the site last summer.


Alexandra Christopoulou, an archaeologist working for the museum, said the delays had been out of their control.

“The building work has not gone as we had hoped and there have been major delays,” she said.

Those delays mean the museum will reopen without the planned lift and no access to the top floor.

Greece’s respected conservative daily Kathimerini criticised the authorities for a botched job.

“A provincial attitude is being used at the last minute to make basic renovations to part of an old building without providing any solutions for its future,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

When the doors are opened, the public will at least be greeted with an appropriate exhibition: “The Athletic Spirit of Ancient Greece.”

Similarly themed exhibits will be on show at the Cultural Centre of Athens, the Frissiras Gallery and the National History Museum.

The newly expanded Byzantium and Christian Museum will be taking its collection out of storage and unveiling a new underground complex by early July.

It will be joined by two newcomers in the National Sculpture Gallery and Museum of Islamic Art, which were both expected to open this month.

The work of Briton and philhellene Henry Moore will dominate the sculpture museum’s maiden exhibit and the same artist will be one of six featured at the national gallery.

Their “Six sculptors talk to Man” show will also feature works by Rodin, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Maillol, Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti

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