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Probe opened into Colosseum restoration deal

A probe has been opened into Rome's deal with shoe king Diego Della Valle to restore the Colosseum, according to a trade union that appealed against the allegedly "secret" deal. 


Uil, Italy's third-biggest union, said Rome prosecutors and the Audit Court, Italy's highest administrative court, were investigating its claims that proper tender procedures were not used when Della Valle signed the deal with Roberto Cecchi, then government commissioner for Rome's central archaeological area, almost exactly a year ago. 

Uil and consumer groups also object to Della Valle, head of the Tod's footwear empire, getting exclusive rights to use the Colosseum logo for 15 years. Cecchi, who is now culture undersecretary in Mario Monti's emergency government, inked the deal with Della Valle on January 21, 2011. 

Della Valle stepped in to bankroll the project after several other groups dropped out. 

The businessman has been hailed as a saviour for the ancient arena, whose state of decay has been highlighted by the recent fall of several pieces of masonry. 

Currently, the two-year restoration is scheduled to begin in March, although Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno called for the start date to be brought forward on December 28, amid the fresh controversy over the state of the monument. 

A piece of tufa rock fell off the Colosseum on Christmas Day and another was reported to have broken off two days later. Although the second incident was denied by art authorities, UNESCO voiced concern over the ancient amphitheatre's state of repair. 

The reported crumbling of the monument spurred headlines like Colosseum Raining Down On Tourists, while news reports recalled a famed prophecy, attributed to the Venerable Bede, that "as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; when the Colosseum falls, so will Rome, and with it the world". 

Alemanno called the news of the probe "madness". 

"First let's see if the news, announced by a trade union, is true. From the outside, since it concerns the culture ministry, it frankly seems madness. Let us restore the Colosseum. Do you want it to fall into pieces," the mayor told reporters. "I am indignant about this continual, disgraceful operation to sink the sponsorship to restore the world's most important monument". 

Alemanno recently voiced satisfaction that legal hurdles raised by consumer groups had been overcome so that the work could proceed. 

"I have spoken with Culture Undersecretary Roberto Cecchi and we have finally overcome the last challenge lodged at the Lazio administrative court," Alemanno told Vatican Radio. It's been madness having to be stalled for a year when there's a private businessman giving us 25 million euros for the Colosseum's restoration and in exchange asking nothing but the privilege of talking about it," the mayor said. 

Consumer groups had objected to Della Valle getting allegedly free publicity for funding the project. The much-needed renovation of Rome's most famous monument, which will take 24-36 months to complete, involves restoring the north and south facades and the underground areas, and building a 1,600-square-meter reception area with a bookshop. This will also increase the area of the monument the public can visit by 25%. 

Della Valle, CEO of Tod's, is financing the efforts to heal the monument, which is close to 2,000 years old and feeling its age. He has promised not to put any advertising hoardings on the work in a break with many other restoration schemes across Italy. 

Speaking last year, Alemanno called it "an example of socially responsible entrepreneurship''. 

Begun in 72 AD, the Colosseum, or Flavian Amphitheatre, is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It is 189 meters by 156 meters and covers an area of 24,000 square meters. 

Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, executions and re-enactments of mythological dramas. 

Source: ANSA [January 11, 2012]
TANN

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