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2008.07.17   Speech by Acting Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, at the Opening Ceremony of the Exhibition “Otium Ludens Leisure and Play: Ancient Relics of the Roman Empire”(English version only)

 Mr De Pedys, Dr Howe, Dr Vinci, Ladies and Gentlemen,


 I have great pleasure to welcome all of you to the opening of the exhibition Otium Ludens - Leisure and Play: Ancient Relics of the Roman Empire. First of all, I would like to convey the apologies from Mr Tsang Tak-shing, the Secretary for Home Affairs for being unable to officiate at the opening ceremony due to urgent commitments elsewhere. He would like to express his sincere thanks to the Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong and our Italian partners, as well as congratulations to the success of the exhibition.


 This year has been very uneasy for all of us. The unforgettable earthquake and devastating flooding in our homeland China, the cyclone that hit Burma, the earthquake that struck Japan and the severe storms and tornadoes that swept across US states. All these natural disasters caused a great number of casualties and mass destruction. About 2,000 years ago, the ancient people in today’s Italy might share the same feelings as we do.  On August 24, AD 79, the great volcano Vesuvius erupted and entombed the nearby region of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae with its lava and ashes. This was a great tragedy. In 1749, the King of Naples discovered that the eruption, sad as it was, had preserved the great art of Rome in the form of frescoes and other artifacts in extraordinary state and delivered to all of the mankind an incredible cultural heritage.


 The region of Stabiae, with its many luxury residences, was a summer resort for the wealthy elite of Rome. In the lavishly decorated villas, they could enjoy panoramic views of the Bay of Naples, a temperate climate, produce of the fertile land, and the thermal mineral springs while they conducted business, ran the empire and at the same time socialised and enjoyed themselves during the summer months. Now, after years of archaeological excavations and studies, the everyday life and artistic splendours of the Roman elites of 2,000 years ago are brought before our eyes again.


 I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Region of Campania, the Superintendence of Archeology of Naples and Pompeii and the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation of Italy for making this exhibition possible. My heartiest thanks also go to all those who have lent us their support – in particular, the Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, who have been our loyal partner in the arts over the years and this time again sponsors a coach service for schoolchildren. I am also grateful to our sponsors – Champion Technology, A Better Tomorrow, Chinese World Cultural Heritage Foundation and World Cultural Relics Protection Foundation - for their ongoing sponsorship; and to the Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong, for their zealous help in bringing the ancient civilisation and the ancient art of Italy to the people of Hong Kong. I look forward to continuous cultural exchanges between Italy and Hong Kong. Lastly, I hope all of you will enjoy viewing the exhibition.

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