Rome - Rome's Colosseum, one of the world's most famous monuments, is at risk of collapse from upcoming works to expand an underground station next to it, activists said Tuesday.
The 1st century structure, where Roman emperors once staged gladiatorial battles and public executions, is the most popular tourist site in Italy, drawing around 5 million visitors every year.
“The Colosseum is at risk,” heritage association Italia Nostra said in a statement. “Nobody at the moment can guarantee that the Colosseum's foundations will not be affected by the deep excavation of land just dozens of meters away from the monument,” it added.
“We cannot remain silent,” Italia Nostra President Carlo Ripa di Meana told reporters in Rome. He said his association would turn to the courts to halt the project if the National Archeological Superintendent for Rome's Monuments drops its opposition to it.
“The question of stability of the foundations is a real concern,” said Emma Bonino, a former European Union commissioner and Italian government minister from the Radical Party, which hosted the Italia Nostra press conference.
Ripa di Meana, also a former minister and EU commissioner, said that “a huge section” of Via dei Fori Imperiali - the road crossing the ancient Forum and leading to the Colosseum - will be cordoned off “within days.”
A 50-meter-deep tunnel is to be excavated to expand the existing Colosseo metro station, currently serving line B. It would be an interchange for line C, which was first planned in 1990 but has not yet been built. Works are expected to cost billions of euros and last until 2020.
Ripa di Meana criticized the lack of transparency over the project, due to be launched before mayoral elections slated for May-June. He warned that pedestrian areas around the Colosseum would be severely narrowed during the works, hampering tourism.
Italia Nostra is campaigning for a smaller-scale metro line which it says would not jeopardize the Colosseum's stability and would cost much less. It says the option has been vetoed by construction firms eager to scoop up lucrative tenders for the Metro C.
The Colosseum is already in a poor state, as fragments continue to fall off its structure. A 25-million-euro (33.3-million-dollar) restoration, sponsored by luxury goods maker Tod's, has been ready to start since 2011, but been blocked by legal and bureaucratic wrangles. - Sapa-dpa