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Rome’s Colosseum needs a facelift

Rome’s Colosseum needs a facelift, officials said as they announced a plan to raise 25 million euros ($A36.


05 million) to restore the crumbling symbol of the Italian capital.

“We face a very big challenge that will be a national and international example of bringing together private and public funds,” Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno told a news conference.

He likened the plan to a multi-million dollar restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel completed in 1994 with the help of private funds.

The government will seek prospective sponsors in a six-week appeal to be launched next Wednesday, the organisers said.

Restoration work may begin as soon as October and last two years, according to Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, who said resorting to sponsors to help fund the work was necessary in “the difficult economic climate”.

Sponsors face limits to advertising their involvement in the project – no logos on the scaffolding, for example – and it must be “compatible with the value and decorum of the Colosseum, the culture ministry said in a statement.

The ancient Roman arena’s facade is weather worn and blackened by the fumes of some 2000 cars driving past it per hour.

The monument’s dilapidated state was dramatised in May when large chunks of mortar and lime fell from the walls.

The Colosseum will remain open to visitors during the phased overhaul, which will include restoration of the facade, modernising the electrical, surveillance and lighting systems, and the building of a new visitors’ centre.

New parts of the monument will be opened to the public including underground areas where gladiators and wild animals awaited their entrance into the arena.

The influx of visitors has surged from one million to six million per year over the past decade, partly due to the success of the 2000 film Gladiator by Ridley Scott.

The egg-shaped arena some 188 metres long, 156 metres wide and 48.5 metres high, completed in 80 AD under the Emperor Titus, was the Roman Empire’s largest amphitheatre.

With a capacity of up to 75,000 spectators, it was used for gladiator fights and other spectacles for nearly 500 years.

Today it is the symbol of a worldwide campaign against capital punishment.