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  • Olympics Resolves Greek Paradox


    11/03/05

    Gianna Angelopoulos at Harvard: "We promised the people of Greece that the Athens Games would unify the nation, push our economy ahead, and show the New Greece to the world." (ATR File) 
    (ATR) The head of the Athens Olympics says the Games have played a role in resolving what she calls "The Greek Paradox". Gianna Angelopoulos spoke Wednesday night at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston. She is a vice chair of the JFK program.

    Angelopoulos says the Greek paradox can be seen in the success of Greek individuals, at home and abroad, while the nation as a whole holds the reputation of a laggard.

    She said the Olympics were a force to overcome the paradox, uniting Greek society toward a common goal.

    "The pressures of preparations would make the politicians and bureaucrats to find a way to make our government work. The vast size of the undertaking would force us to work together. The pressure of a global countdown would bring out our best. And the pride aroused by the Games would unite us as never before," she told the Harvard audience.

    While she calls the Olympics "a gamble that Greece came painfully close to losing," Angelopoulos says there was a payoff.

    "That faith in the people of Greece was rewarded, gloriously and repeatedly, by the success of the Athens Games. Their work on the Olympic Games left Greece with a stronger economy, a 21st Century infrastructure, a renewed national pride and the greater respect of the world."

    The Athens Olympics chief says what used to be a paradox is now a new challenge for Greece, "the challenge of maintaining and growing Greek success."

    Recounting the achievements of the 2004 Games and the improvements brought to Athens and Greece, Angelopoulos admits a high price was paid.

    "The Games were not without tremendous costs. Every project of this size experiences cost overruns, but ours were exceptional: the three years wasted between 1997 and my team's return in 2000 resulted in overtime wages and sometimes extravagant construction costs; security concerns after 9/11 added immensely to our security budget," she said.

    "The people of Greece are paying more now than they should have had to pay for the pride, growth and respect that are their Olympic legacy. But I believe that, in purely economic terms, the Games paid off for Greece. And I believe an
    The Athens 2004 President at the triathlon. (ATR) 
    even greater payoff has been the intangible returns we realized in the wake of our success," she said.

    Angelopoulos says the efforts of Greeks for the Olympics "transformed the way the world sees us, and the way we see one another."

    "Today, a year later, that same spirit that carried us to success survives, hastening the Greek paradox towards resolution, and making the New Greece both an emblem of and a product of the power of the Olympic Games," she concluded in her prepared remarks.

    During answers to questions from the audience at the lecture, Angelopoulos said she had worries at one time that politics might jeopardize Games preparations.

    In response to a question from a South African about how to deal with media criticism in the run-up to the 2010 world cup, Angelopoulos advised "ignore" the carping and "get on with your work".

    She rejected the idea that the Olympics should remain in Greece permanently, saying every part of the world deserved to have the Games.

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