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by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS， Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- A new， state-of-the-art cultural center constructed here at the seaside by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation， named after the late Greek shipping tycoon， was officially handed over to the Greek state on Thursday during a celebratory ceremony attended by thousands.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)， a 620-million-euro (656-million-U.S.-dollar) project， was launched a decade ago.
It was fully funded by the private foundation and designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano to house the National Opera， the National Library and offer Greek people a modern multi-use complex for cultural， educational and entertainment purposes.
The impressive buildings and the surrounding 200，000 square meter park with open spaces， water fountain and playgrounds on the Faliro Bay shoreline can accommodate up to 32，000 visitors.
Addressing the ceremony， Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed one of the largest donations in Greece's recent history， expressing confidence that the new landmark of the Greek capital would help transform its image and enrich its cultural life.
"Culture cannot be considered a luxury...It is a real need if we want to defend the right and hope of a better world，" Tsipras said， before finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos signed the transfer contract.
The Greek finance ministry is fully taking over the administration and management of SNFCC， while the foundation has pledged to continue supporting the center over the first five years of its operation with an extra 50 million euros.
The project was hailed as a fine example of public-private partnership for the benefit of people， Andreas Dracopoulos， director of the foundation， and nephew of the late magnate Stavros Niarchos， said during his speech.
The construction of the SNFCC started in 2012 and was completed last spring. Since the summer， the center hosted many events with free entrance to allow Greek people to discover what it had to offer.
Since August， on average 5，000 schoolchildren and adults per week have participated in guided tours， workshops and artistic events， while in March the national library and opera will have relocated to their new premises.
On Thursday evening， music and dance performances and a spectacular show of fireworks marked its transfer to the Greek state.
One attendee， Daphne， was enthusiastic about the transfer， but was also a little concerned about the center's fate at the hands of a debt-laden state.
"I am very happy that this project was created and completed in Greece is such a difficult period ... I will not hide that I am a bit worried about the handover to the debt-ridden state ... But， I hope for the best，" she told Xinhua.
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