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Published on 22 February 2012
A senior member of staff at the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity warned the Greek government last autumn that budget cuts had reduced staff to such a point that the museum’s security could no longer be ensured, it has been claimed.
Armed thieves are reported to have broken into the museum at 07:30 local time on Friday (17 February 2012), taking advantage of a shift change to steal more than 60 objects, some of which date back more than 3,000 years.
Mark Lowen of the BBC said the Mayor of Olympia Thymios Kotzias told him that there is a “direct link” between the burglary and the “policy of cuts and Greece's economic crisis”.
“He said he was very angry at the situation and the international community needed to realise how important these treasures were for Greece.
“This raises fresh questions about museum security in Greece, weeks after the National Gallery in Athens was burgled and a Picasso painting stolen. The economic crisis is having an unexpected impact on the country's ancient treasures,” Lowen wrote.
Olympia Mayor Thymios Kotzias described the items taken as of “incalculable value”.
Greek Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos is said to have already offered his resignation, but it has not yet been accepted by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
This is not the first Greek museum to be targeted this year. In January, a Picasso painting was among a number of paintings stolen from the Athens National Gallery and there is a widespread belief that museums nationwide are suffering from the effects of two years of lay-offs.
“All museums have suffered cuts, both in guards and archaeologists, the staff are no longer enough to operate at full shifts,” said Ioanna Frangou, general secretary of the union of short-term culture ministry staff.