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Greek Prime Minister tours New Acropolis Museum site

Kostas Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister toured the construction site of the New Acropolis Museum. Official announcements regarding the museum are getting more & more frequent in recent months as the building nears completion. Once the building opens to the public, it will increase the pressure on the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles, by proving that the Greeks have a location where the sculptures could be better displayed than they currently are in the Duveen gallery.
This is an Associated Press syndicated article which appeared in many newspapers around the world.

From:
International Herald Tribune [1]

Greek premier says new Acropolis museum to boost bid for Parthenon sculptures
The Associated Press
Published: October 9, 2006

ATHENS, Greece Greece’s marathon campaign to reclaim the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures from Britain will be boosted by a long-delayed Athens museum set to open next year, the premier said Monday.

Greece hopes the landmark structure, purpose-built to showcase finds from the ancient Acropolis, will eventually host the collection — even as a permanent loan — despite repeated refusals from the British government and British Museum officials.

“Once the museum is completed, Greece will have a very strong argument for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures,” Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said. “We are taking a very important step to finally realize a dream that unites all Greeks.”

The ancient marble masterpieces originally decorated the upper parts of the Parthenon, built between 447 and 432 B.C. They were removed in the early 19th century — when Greece still belonged to the Turkish Ottoman empire — by British diplomat Lord Elgin.

Athens argues the sprawling €129 million ($162 million) building will allow the sculptures to be reunited for the first time in 200 years, in a direct line of sight with their ancient home.

During a visit to the building site at the foot of the Acropolis hill, Karamanlis said the museum will be ready “in the first half of 2007.” Officials say it will then open to visitors by the end of next year.

“It will be the most modern archaeological museum in the world,” Karamanlis said.

Initially scheduled for completion before the 2004 Athens Olympics, construction of the 20,000-sq. meter (215,000-sq. foot) glass and concrete museum was delayed by long-running legal fights and new archaeological discoveries at the site.

“Most of the work has now been done,” project director Dimitris Pantermalis said. “Much of the glass paneling is now in place, we have even put in the escalators.”

The two-story building will be capped by a glass hall containing all the Parthenon sculptures in Greek possession. The glass walls will allow visitors a direct view of the ancient temple, some 300 meters (yards) away.

Blank spaces will be left for the British Museum sculptures.

The 14,000-sq. meter (150,000-sq. foot) exhibition area will contain more than 4,000 works — 10 times the amount currently on display at a cramped museum on the Acropolis. Most have never been exhibited before.

Pantermalis said work will soon begin to move the larger sculptures from the old museum to the new building.

“They will probably be hoisted off the Acropolis by crane, and then moved here by a kind of cable car,” he said.

The museum was designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michael Photiades. It will incorporate, under a glass cover, building remains from a 3-7 century Athenian neighborhood discovered in the 1990s during preliminary work on the site.