Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ancient stones and modern-day mistakes

The inadequate fire-extinguishing system at Olympia failed to work when it should have, due to lack of maintenance

By Olga Sella - Kathimerini

On that first day of the fire in Ancient Olympia, August 26, “just a few trees” were destroyed. As the days went by, when the fire had reached the entrance to the museum, the list had grown – the Hill of Cronus, the stadium, the storeroom of the German Archaeological Institute, the site of the Olympic Academy. Slowly the Culture Ministry began to make announcements about the damage caused by the flames. Every day there were more. On Tuesday of last week, it was found that 3,000 of the architectural structures at the site had suffered damage. A week later, the archaeological site was reopened to the public. Where once was green forest is now gray ash, with the charred remains of the Olympic Academy site and the Hill of Cronus, the blackened bed of the Kladeos River, and the burnt-out watershed above the stadium providing a tragic background.

In the first few days after the fires it appeared that there was something wrong with the way ancient sites are being protected. A state-of-the-art, very expensive fire-extinguishing system took the brunt of the criticism, as if that alone was to blame for the fire that reached as far as the door to the new museum.

Ten days after the fire, the Culture Ministry has begun to announce new fire-prevention measures for Ancient Olympia – a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Also: Mourning the burnt forest and anger about who is to blame

‘Prevention is everything’

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