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A mighty Aphrodite to rival the Colossus of Rhodes

Tourism developers supersize projects. Cyprus joins the trend with plans for a statue of a Greek goddess.

Statue of Liberty, prepare for some competition.

Cyprus, half the size of New Jersey, is planning to build a spectacular theme park dedicated to Aphrodite – the mythical goddess of love, beauty, and fertility – and it will be crowned by a sculpture on a scale as eye-catching as the giant green lady in New York Harbor.

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"We always felt that Cyprus needed an identity symbol for its tourism like other countries had," says Nicos Rolandis, the minister of commerce, Industry, and tourism. "When you think of Egypt, it's the pyramids; it's the Taj Mahal for India, it's the Colosseum in Rome."

The mighty Aphrodite will measure about 107 feet – as tall as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world, long-ago destroyed – about three-fourths the size of Lady Liberty.

The project was conceived by a Cypriot designer in London, Xanthos Menelaou. "The economy of Cyprus depends on the tourist industry," he says. "These days, sun and sea is not enough." The myth of Aphrodite, which has inspired Western art and literature over the centuries, provided Cyprus with a "tremendously strong brand name" that was not being used to full effect, says Menelaou.

Tourists are increasingly looking for "important statement destinations," says Richard Grubb of RHWL Architects in London, a collaborator on the project. There has been a recent trend in small but ambitious tourist destinations building spectacular landmarks. Dubai is constructing the world's biggest man-made islands in the shape of palm trees while Bahrain is to build a replica of Venice in the Persian Gulf.

"Although millions of people in the Western World recognize the Botticelli image, or the Aphrodite of Milos in the Louvre," Menelaou says, "very few know that the Aphrodite worship and tradition began in Cyprus more than 3,000 years ago."

Possible versions of the Aphrodite statue, including an artist's impression inspired by Boticelli's famous painting, "The Birth of Venus," have been drafted, but an international competition may be held to decide the final design. While the theme park will highlight Cyprus's rich ancient history, the plan is for a contemporary and original sculpture that will serve as a symbol of modern Cyprus.

The likeliest location of the park is just off the southwestern coast between the resort of Paphos and Petra tou Romiou, a tourist attraction 10 miles away. This will be close to both Paphos airport and the area where, according to mythology, Aphrodite was born.

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In one version of the Aphrodite myth, the goddess was the child of Zeus by the nymph Dione, daughter of Air and Earth. Her nakedness was covered by the Graces when she stepped out of the rock-encircled waters near Paphos.

The park will have all the modern amenities including a 200-seat theater, an aquarium, a conference hall, and even wedding chapels for the romantically minded who choose to tie the knot on what the tourist brochures call "the island of love."

The plans to build a tourist-attracting wonder of the modern world have not been welcomed by everyone. An editorial in the Cyprus Mail last year quipped that it would turn out to be "one of the Seven Blunders of the World."

But Rolandis, the tourism minister, points out that there was a similar furor when other visionary projects, such as the Eiffel Tower, were launched.

The project is expected to gain government approval by early April. Developers are confident construction will begin by the end of the year. It will take another two years to complete, at a cost of about $50 million, to be raised from the private sector.