The prehistoric monument of Stonehenge stands tall in the British countryside as one of the last remnants of the Neolithic Age. Recently it has also become the latest symbol of another era: the new fiscal austerity.
Renovations — including a plan to replace the site’s run-down visitors center with one almost five times bigger and to close a busy road that runs along the 5,000-year-old monument — had to be mothballed in June. The British government had suddenly withdrawn £10 million, or $16 million, in financing for the project as part of a budget squeeze.
Stonehenge, once a temple with giant stone slabs aligned in a circle to mark the passage of the sun, is among the most prominent victims of the government’s spending cuts. The decision was heavily criticized by local lawmakers, especially because Stonehenge, a Unesco World Heritage site, was part of London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
The shabby visitors center there now is already too small for the 950,000 people who visit Stonehenge each year, let alone the additional onslaught of tourists expected for the Games, the lawmakers say.