From Cyprus Mail ... a bit of an update:

THE COLOSSUS of Rhodes was a huge statue of the god Helios, erected on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos in 300BC. It was roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty in New York, which is said to have been modelled on it. The Colossus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Construction completed in 282 BC after 12 years. The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. Ptolemy III offered to pay for its reconstruction but a Delphic oracle made the Rhodians afraid they had offended Helios and they were unwilling to risk it..

The ruins lay on the ground for over 800 years and even in their broken state were so impressive that many travelled to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues.

There has been much debate as to whether to rebuild the Colossus. Those in favour say it would boost tourism in Rhodes greatly, those against say it would cost a fortune. But whereas natural disaster may have literally brought the awe-inspiring statue to its knees, these days it is the more mundane considerations of financing and Greek bureaucracy that stand in the way.

Unfazed, Cypriot sculptor Nikos Kotziamanis has been at it for years trying to bring authorities round to his vision of what he calls “the new miracle of the 21st century”. Backed by a team of landscapers, structural engineers and academics, Kotziamanis is one of the driving forces behind what would be the revival of the Colossus in the new age.

“It’s all ready: the architectural designs, engineering…everything,” says Kotziamanis. “Now we’re just waiting for the final go-ahead from the Greek government. If they say yes, they won’t regret it.”

Needless to say, the new statue would be earthquake-proof so as not to suffer the fate of its ancient predecessor.

There have been several twists in the endeavour. The idea has been in the pipeline since the 1980s, when Kotziamanis first discussed it with the late Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. Unsuccessful in his first attempt, Kotziamanis tried again, proposing that the statue be built to coincide with the advent of the new millennium.

When that deadline passed, his next suggestion was that it should be launched in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Listening to the hyped-up Kotziamanis you’d think the hour has finally come. And that may not be entirely unwarranted, as the mayor of Kallithea – the proposed location for the statue – has openly backed the idea.

So the Colossus won’t stand at the original site of Rhode city’s harbour. Sacrilege, say scholars and classicists. They have long opposed the concept, arguing among other things that no one knows exactly what the original looked like. Moreover, how do you justify erecting such a stoic monument outside Faliraki, a summer resort with a reputation for drunkeness and promiscuity among tourists?

While these protestations may seem valid, Kotziamanis takes a different stance. “This will not be a replica of the ancient statue,” he stresses.

“Yes, it will be a tribute to Hellenism and to the glory of ancient Greece but it will symbolise more than that: it will stand for brotherhood and unity. It will be a modern-day wonder.”

The new Colossus, he says, would stand tall atop a hill (altitude 350m) overlooking Faliraki and the Mediterranean Sea.

Sure, we would have liked to build it at or near the original site, asserts Kotziamanis, but that would not be viable, as the present-day harbour is built-up and there’s nowhere to place the statue.

“Unless of course we constructed an artificial island in the sea. But that would be extremely complex and costly. We have to be practical.”

Kotziamanis pauses. “Imagine what a sight that would be. A 30m-high giant on a hill greeting sailors as far as the eye can see.” His excitement is palpable.

So what about the colossal cost? According to a feasibility study by Lloyd’s of London, the project would cost somewhere in the area of £40 million. Kotziamanis says that a number of companies have expressed interest in financing the endeavour.

That’s where the modern-day outlook kicks in. The planned project will not be just the statue: straddling its base will be a complex including a museum dedicated to the history of the Colossus, a library and an auditorium. The project would be near the location where the 1961 war classic Guns of Navarone was filmed, he points out.

Given that approximately three million tourists come to the island every year, argues Kotziamanis, charging a mere 10 euros per visit to the Colossus would generate handsome amounts of revenue.

Still, Kotziamanis is adamant that the Colossus will not be degraded into a theme park.
“No, the spectacle will be breathtaking. During the daytime the glittering bronze and its sheer size will capture the imagination. And at night the play of lights will make it magical. Visiting this place will be like having a mystical experience.”

The entire project would take four years to complete once construction was underway. Because of the scale involved, Kotziamanis would work on one section of the statue at a time and then have it shipped to Rhodes.

“It’s a difficult task,” he acknowledges. “But once finished, it will become a Greek marvel for ages to come.”

Kotziamanis’ penchant for the heroic and glorious is evident in his works. Among other things, he has sculpted the imposing statue of Makarios at Nicosia’s Archbishopric, EOKA leader Grivas and, more recently, that of National Guard Commander Lieutenant-General Evangelos Florakis, who died in a helicopter crash in 2002.

A proposal of his in the 1990s to erect the statue of US President John F. Kennedy in Nicosia became embroiled in controversy and the idea was eventually scrapped. Reports at the time said that the mayors of the Nicosia district were reluctant to place the project under their wing.

“I really admired JFK,” he says, adding: “Kennedy stood for human rights, he was anti-establishment. This is what I was trying to contribute with his statue. After all, haven’t we Cypriots as a nation been fighting for our rights for so long?”

But not wishing to “go any further into politics,” he next mentions that the statue has been finished and is just sitting there.

“I hope interest in bringing it to Cyprus will rekindle,” he offers.

Other ongoing projects include a large statue of Archbishop Makarios, sculpted for the government of Cuba and with financial backing from the Church of Cyprus. The statue is expected to be unveiled in Havana on May 15.