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Pompeii building collapse prompts calls for privatisation of city

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Krystal Coenen
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« on: November 14, 2010, 06:25:39 pm »

Pompeii building collapse prompts calls for privatisation of city

Calls for Unesco world heritage site to be privatised after 2,000-year-old House of Gladiators collapses

    * Reuters in Rome
    *, Sunday 7 November 2010 20.12 GMT
    * Article history

House of the Gladiators, Pompeii, Italy The 'House of the Gladiators' is believed to have been used as a clubhouse by fighters before they went into battle. Photograph: Salvatore Laporta/AP

Opposition politicians and commentators accused Italy's government of neglect and mismanagement today over the collapse of the 2,000-year-old House of the Gladiators in the ruins of ancient Pompeii.

Some commentators said the Unesco world heritage site should be privatised and removed from state control. La Stampa newspaper ran a story headlined "Pompeii the collapse of shame," echoing national opinion over the cultural disaster.

The stone house, on one of the site's main streets and measuring about 80 sq m (860 sq ft), collapsed just after dawn yesterday while Pompeii was closed to visitors. The structure was believed to have been used as a club house by gladiators before they went to battle in a nearby amphitheatre.

Business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said the only solution for Pompeii was a private sponsor which would be allowed to place its logos at the entrance.

"Precisely because it belongs to all humanity, its management should be taken away from a state that has shown itself incapable of protecting it," it said.

The building was not open to visitors but was visible from the outside.

Its walls were decorated with frescoes of military themes. Culture minister Sandro Bondi visited the site today and said experts believe at least some frescoes could be saved.

Approximately 2.5 million tourists visit Pompeii every year, making it one of Italy's most popular attractions. Art historians and residents have for years complained that the sites were in a state of decay and needed regular maintenance. Two years ago the government declared a state of emergency for Pompeii but it lasted only a year.

Roberto Cecchi, under-secretary at the culture ministry, said there had been no effective, continuous maintenance at Pompeii in half a century. Breaking ranks with his ministry, he said stop-gap, ad hoc measures, such as the appointment of commissioners, which attracted flashes of publicity, were no substitute for the constant monitoring worthy of a world treasure.

La Repubblica newspapers called the collapse a "world scandal" and blamed the government of Silvio Berlusconi for putting unqualified people in charge and for cutting funds for Italy's vast cultural heritage. "Inevitably, there will be other collapses, other ruins, other disasters," an editorial said.

Walter Veltroni, a former leader of the opposition Democratic party, said: "This is the latest sign that this government is not interested in culture."Officials said the probable cause was heavy rains but most commentators said long-standing neglect was the root problem because Pompeii should have been better protected from weather.

Archaeologists and art historians have long complained about the poor upkeep of Pompeii, dogged by lack of investment, mismanagement, litter and looting. Bogus tour guides, illegal parking attendants and stray dogs also plague visitors.

Two-thirds of the town, home to some 13,000 people in the Roman era, have been uncovered since serious excavations began some 260 years ago.

The remaining third is still buried and many modern buildings have been constructed over it, making future excavations virtually impossible.
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