Dakkis Joannou, who was involved in the Guggenheim’s expansion in Blibao, sounds off on the Greek financial crisis to Bloomberg. He’s frustrated at Greece’s government. The government, no doubt, is frustrated that the United Kingdom won’t return the Elgin Marbles:
“Culture is a big business that people are hungry for and we have huge assets,” Joannou, 71, says from his office in the shadow of the Olympic stadium. “But the government uses our assets to make political statements and to gain votes. It’s a matter of survival for them, and nobody wants to invest in culture or anything else in a climate of bankruptcy.”
Even so, Joannou says that the two main political parties, Pasok and New Democracy, are devoid of the necessary cultural drive, and that the government’s projected 12 percent rise to 16.5 million foreign tourists visiting Greece in 2011 compared with last year is a Pyrrhic indicator.
“The tourists who come to Greece go to the sunny islands, making any rise in visitor numbers pathetic in comparison to our assets,” he says. “Culture management must be creative, imaginative, exciting and that can’t be done here.”
Joannou says he thought Greece’s luck had turned when it won the right to host the 2004 Olympics, only to spend 9 billion euros on a project that ended in financial disaster, at the time lumbering the government with a deficit in excess of 4 percent of gross domestic product and beyond European Union limits.
“I went on a few of the government culture committees, but their inability to act frustrated me,” he says. “I no longer get involved. I gave up on them. I do my thing. It’s a shame.”
Joannou shakes his head. “We could have done here what we did in Bilbao,” he says. “Politicians didn’t want to listen.”
Greece’s $473 Billion Debt Mirrors Crisis in Cultural Assets (Bloomberg’s BusinesssWeek)