Theft of Olympic treasures piles on misery for Greeks



In a further blow to Greek confidence, two armed and masked robbers broke into a museum at Olympia in southern Greece yesterday, the site of the ancient Olympics, and stole dozens of treasures.

Police set up roadblocks but failed to locate the thieves, who are believed to have taken some 60 gold, bronze and clay artefacts.

It is at the Olympia Archaeological Museum, considered one of the best museums in Greece, that the Olympic flame will be lit on 10 May and the torch will then go to the London Olympics. Following the robbery early yesterday, the Minister of Culture, Pavlos Geroulanos, offered his resignation, but this has still to be accepted by the Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos.

The theft, coming just before Greece is to cede much of its independence and ability to determine it own future in return for a eurozone rescue package, underscores a sense among many Greeks that their country is imploding. Greece is expecting eurozone finance ministers finally to agree a €130bn bailout on Monday, enabling it to avoid a chaotic default on its debts.

The ease with which two men in ski masks could rob one of the country's premier museums reinforces a belief that the state is dysfunctional. The theft comes less than two months after thieves made off with pictures by Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian from the National Gallery in Athens.

"Art and archaeological treasures were always poorly guarded here," said one archaeologist, who did not want to be named, "but now the guards are so badly paid that they do not make much of an effort to protect anything."

Greeks feel acutely vulnerable as they suffer a decline in their standard of living unprecedented inside the EU. "It is a sign of disintegration," says Tassos Teloglu, one of Greece's top investigative reporters, adding that he does not expect a social explosion "but there are already signs of disorderly collapse".

The signing of what is in effect a €230bn rescue package – €130bn in fresh loans and a €100bn write-down in private debt – will relieve the pressure on Greece for the moment. "Neither the Greeks nor the eurozone leaders could afford a disorderly default," says Vagelis Agapitos, a financial consultant in Athens. He is optimistic that Greece will pull through if there are radical cuts to the state sector, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.

The eurozone money does not go to the Greek government, but to its creditors. The Greek state will have to live off its own revenues and not rely on borrowings, making it impossible to maintain its standard of living.

The deal with the eurozone may for the moment calm anxieties in Athens, but the lack of a legitimate and stable government still undercuts confidence. The coalition government of Mr Papademos was effectively imposed by eurozone leaders last November but is weak. German leaders have said they would like the government to postpone the election that is expected in about 10 weeks and in which no party is likely to win a majority.

Simos Kedikoglu, an MP for the conservative New Democracy party, says there must be a poll. He says: "People feel they were tricked in the last election. Greeks must be able to express themselves or they will explode."

He adds that Greeks want contradictory things: "Polls show that 90 per cent don't want the austerity measures, but 80 per cent want Greece to remain inside the European Union." An election is scarcely likely to resolve the contradiction.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform