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New Acropolis Museum Ready For 2004 Olympic Games

Pressure will be exerted on Britain internationally to return the Elgin marble collection of sculptures taken from the Parthenon, albeit in the form of a “long-term loan,” as the 2004 Olympics approach, said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos last month.

He also renewed the longstanding promise that a new Acropolis museum will have been built at the foot of the Acropolis by August 2004 – when the 28th modern Olympic Games will be held in Athens. “Procedures for the construction of the new Acropolis Museum are proceeding at a very fast pace,” Mr. Venizelos said. The new structure will have more than enough room for the mid-5th century BC works owned for the past 185 years by the British Museum in London, he said.

The prospect of the new museum is one of Greece’s main arguments in its campaign for the return of the works removed on behalf of Thomas Bruce, the Seventh Earl of Elgin, between 1801 and 1811. But repeated pledges have failed to materialize, and now, with three years to go before the Olympics, the museum seems no closer to completion than it was 12 years ago, at the time of the first international architectural competition to design the building.

Nevertheless, the culture minister said the important thing, irrespective of the legal framework, is that the Marbles should come to Greece. He added that Greece would make sure the British Museum is not left with empty pedestals. “We will not underestimate such a gesture by the British Museum and the British government. We will make sure that very important exhibitions of international interest are held in the British Museum. This will happen on a continuous basis.”

The culture minister did not specify what he had in mind, or confirm British press reports that the cream of some 32,000 finds from the Athens Metro excavations currently on display in Athens might be part of the exchange. He did stress that the putative return of the Elgin Collection would not be followed by demands for the return of other Greek antiquities.

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