May 13, 2004

Debate on Elgin Marbles restitution stirs up controversy

Posted at 5:14 pm in Elgin Marbles

An Oxford Union debate on the Elgin Marbles has stirred up controversy, after many of the speakers against restitution dropped out.

The Oxford Student

13th May 2004
Elgin Marbles Debate mired in controversy
Gemma Varley

A prominent speaker dramatically pulled out of a Union debate on Sunday amid accusations that it was rigged.

Michael Daley, a leading archaeologist and campaigner for the protection of British Museum collections, refused to speak in the debate with the motion, “This house believes the Elgin Marbles [as they are commonly referred to] should be returned to Greece”. He claimed that the organisers were trying to force the debate in favour of the marbles repatriation to Greece.

Archaeologist Dr Dorothy King was asked to speak but also refused the offer.

The pair decided not to take part, claiming that they were asked to argue alongside student debaters against a panel of experts, after Boris Johnson and Brian Sewell also pulled out of the debate earlier in the week.

Marketing Manager for the Festival, Tom Littler, denied any accusations that the debate was rigged. He told The OxStu: “The debate was robust and convivial and the result, 133 to 75, reflected the exact proportions of the last debate at the Union on the issue, in 1986.”

Union President George Costa added that: “The debate was in no way rigged or weighted in favour of the marbles’ repatriation to Greece. It was a fair and balanced debate and Mr Daley was invited, indeed encouraged, to particpate. If he had any grievances, this was the appropriate forum in which to express them.”

The debate eventually did go ahead between ancient historian Peter Derow, archaeologist and MP Richard Allen, a prominent campaigner for return of the marbles, William G. Stewart and the American writer Jared Reed along with two world class Oxford student debaters.

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