Greece’s Culture Ministry flooded the Acropolis site with thick, fresh cement paths and blocks covering the ancient rocks and triggering an outrage on social media.The Ministry claims that these cement paths aim to facilitate access for visitors with mobility problems, disabled, seniors and visitors with health problems.
Protesting archaeologists and the internet community argue that in Greece of 21st century, other materials such as wood, plexiglas or metal ramps could have been used to avoid such a smashing, ignorant and barbaric alternation of the 2500-year-old site.
It all started on Friday afternoon with a post on facebook by archaeologist Despina Makropoulou who informed Greeks about the cementification of the Acropolis and shared pictures from various points of the site.
Late on Friday, the Culture Minister Lina Mendoni issued an unacceptable statement full of irony, claiming that the cement critics had no “culture.”
“The Ministry of Culture and Sports expresses its joy that sensitive citizens were concerned about the routes, which are paved on the Acropolis Rock, in order to facilitate the access of the disabled, the elderly, citizens with health problems.
At the same time, it regrets that the same sensitive citizens who are protesting have not visited the Holy Rock for at last twenty years, when these roads are paved with cement. The difference is that over time and with the passage of millions of visitors, all these years, the material has been destroyed and the routes are a trap even for those who do not have mobility problems.”
It attached a picture of old, the worn out covering.
“The cement paths for the disabled have existed for the last 20 years but the material has worn out due to frequent use and there is not other way for thousands of visitors with mobility problems to approach the Holy Rock to admire the timeless symbol of ancient Greek culture,” the statement said among others.
Note: the paths have been existing since the 1960’s, when the ancient pavements were recklessly covered with cement and the Culture Ministry has followed the same practice more than half a century later.
The Minister added that the high Archaeological Council KAS had approved the cement paths.
Yes, the same Council that it rejected the request by fashion designer Gucci to hold a show on the Acropolis in 2014. The KAS argued back then that the runway platforms would damage the ‘ancient marbles.”
Note also that despite the Minister’s “concerns” about the visitors with mobility issues, the wheelchair elevator that broke down in 2019 has not be restored yet.
As the Acropolis site is a World Heritage Monument under the Protection of the UNESCO such alternations should be been normally possible with an international tender and approval not just the local minister.
So far it is not know which company has been assigned with the cement paths and blocks. what is known, though, is the the project is reportedly funded by the Onassis Foundation that has also come up for the recently upgraded of the lighting system. there.
Worth also mentioning that the cement paths were planned already in May, when the whole country was in lockdown. On the ministry website, the plan is presented as one that will offer all visitors “a new, different experience.”
“Visitors will be greeted by smooth, durable and stable surfaces, ensuring smooth and safe movement, while wheelchairs will be able to move freely and not linearly. This is how the free space in antiquity will be perceived. Today’s visitor perceives the whole [site], as an uneven and inaccessible square with marble architectural masterpieces which are strangely artless and cheap in the lower parts with often obvious symptoms of galloping worn out.”
“The ancient spatial structure of the Acropolis is not easily understood by today’s visitor,” culture minister Mendoni wrote and undertook the task to solve the above mentioned problems.
Why not remove also all these dusty ruins and formless stones left and right from the neatly constructed cement pathways?
With biting comments, insults but also humor, Greeks expressed this complete disapproval of the cement in Acropolis.
Some also “saw” the future of the ancient site as a fun park with roof garden, lounge bar with an stunning view over the Greek capital Athens.
Comments and “proposals” on hashtag Ακροπολη
Many demand that the Prime Minister sends Mendoni home.
Strong are the reactions also by archaeologists and ministry employees.
The President of the Greek Archaeologists Association Despina Koutsouba said that the Culture Minister is using disabled people as a pretext to an intervention on the Rock of the Acropolis without previous briefing to UNESCO, as it should be. She urges to reverse the project.
The General Secretary of the Union of Employees at the Culture Ministry, Stathis Gkotsis criticized the “shabby aesthetic that insults the monument and the visitors.”
PS According to unconfirmed rumors, the British Museum will claim the rest of the Acropolis to save it from the Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni before she will cover the whole site with cement.
On the occasion of the day, we learn also a Greek expression: Τσιμέντο να γίνει! Literally translated into “Let it be cement!”
Originally from the urbanization in the 1960’s, the 70’s and the 80’s meaning ” I don’t give a damn!” if everything original is covered with cement. Alternatively is also used for “let’s forgive and forget!”