March 21, 2006

Greek long-delayed Acropolis museum to open in 2007

By Alkman Granitsas

ATHENS (Reuters) - After years of delays, legal wrangles
and cost overruns, Greece hopes to open its Acropolis Museum by
the end of 2007, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis said on

"It is our ambition that by 2007 the museum will be open to
visitors," he told journalists after touring the half-finished
building near the ancient hilltop temples of the Acropolis.

Greece had hoped to open the museum before the 2004
Olympics to push its claim for the return of the 5th-century BC
Parthenon marbles, widely known as the Elgin marbles, from the
British Museum.

But after decades on the drawing board, the museum is now
three years behind schedule and, at a projected final cost of
129 million euros ($156.6 million), 25 percent over budget.

Construction was held up partly by the discovery of early
Christian era ruins on the site. Another delay was caused by
residents who challenged the construction of the museum, citing
zoning laws in the city center.

The building itself has faced engineering challenges.
Because of the risk of earthquakes, the four-story museum is
built on 94 shock absorbing supports to allow it to sway during

Once it is finished, the museum will house artifacts from
the temples of the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, as well
as serving as a hoped-for future home for the disputed Elgin

Since independence in 1832, Greece has pressed Britain to
return the sculpted blocks of the frieze that were cut from the
Parthenon by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman
Empire, which occupied Greece at the time.

The frieze depicts a procession of horses and people
through Athens during a festival and is a masterpiece of
ancient Greece.

A brochure for the new Acropolis museum says "nearly half
of the frieze is currently at the British Museum in London and
its restitution is the object of major political struggles."