VISITORS FLOCK TO NEW MUSEUM

Visitors from a number of other countries as well as Greeks went to see the displays at the New Acropolis Museum yesterday, its first day open to the public. The museum will be open every day except Mondays and public holidays. Tickets will be priced at 1 euro until the end of this year, after which they are due to rise to 5 euros.

Thousands of people visited the New Acropolis Museum yesterday, the first day that it was open to the public after Greece had used the opening ceremony on Saturday as an opportunity to state its case for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

Up to 10,000 people who had booked their 1-euro tickets online were expected to walk through the doors of the museum between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. Until tomorrow, only visitors who have booked their tickets via the www.theacropolismuseum.gr website will be able to view the 4,000 exhibits on display. The first week is sold out.

According to The Associated Press, Chryssa Salamanou from Athens was the first through the doors with her husband and child. "We felt that today, with our child, we had to be the first ones to admire the masterpieces which finally found such a worthy, such an important home," she said.

For many visitors, the main attraction was the museum's top floor, where sections of the Parthenon frieze left in Athens have been joined with plaster casts of the works that Lord Elgin removed more than 200 years ago and took to London.

Greece's desire for their return was at the heart of much of what was said and done during Saturday's ceremony, when some 400 dignitaries were guided through the museum, as the pressure on Britain to return the sculptures was ratcheted up.

"It is time to heal the wounds of the monument with the return of the Marbles that belong to it," said President Karolos Papoulias. "They are our pride and our identity."

Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said the Marbles were in "enforced exile," which is "not just an injustice to us Greeks but to everyone in the world, the English included, because they were made to be seen in sequence and in their entirety."