In Athens, Museum Is an Olympian Feat (NYT)

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On Monday morning, forklifts nosed through a sprawl of antiquities in the second-floor gallery of the New Acropolis Museum here, bearing marble statues and steles. Technicians tugged at bulky black cables, laborers drilled and welded, and a cleaning crew — many of its members working on hands and knees — scraped mounds of white plaster off the floor.

“My apologies,” said Antonis Samaras, Greece’s culture minister, who was overseeing the final preparations for the museum’s debut on Saturday. “But it’s like the Olympics,” he added, referring to the 2004 Athens Games. “Everything will magically come together on opening night.”

If it does, Greece will finally, after decades of preparation, procrastination and acrimonious debate, have a large-scale, architecturally ambitious and modern center for the care and display of artifacts from its most important ancient site. The museum, which cost $200 million and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon, is one of the highest-profile cultural projects undertaken in Europe in this decade.

Intended as “the ultimate showcase of classical civilization,” Mr. Samaras said, it was built to promote tourism and, like any large, government-financed museum, to stir national pride. But it was also meant, not incidentally, to spark discomfort in another country in the European Union.

“We didn’t build this for the sake of the British,” Mr. Samaras said in an interview, adding at once, “but look around: does this not negate the argument that Athens has no place good enough to house the Parthenon Marbles?”

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