Greeks were not able to enjoy the victories of their Olympic champions in Rio after they were overshadowed by a series of unpleasant incidents. Between disparaging comments made about pole-vaulter Katerina Stefanidi in the pro-SYRIZA newspaper Avgi, the oversight of shooting champion Anna Korakaki’s non-invite to a formal congratulations ceremony with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and the attack against former weightlifter Pyrros Dimas by the aforementioned leftist newspaper, the celebratory mood gave way to division.
Many cannot help feeling that there is some kind of force in play that wants to impose – with exaggerated stringency and, in effect, by underestimating the people’s intelligence – just one version of events. This establishment mentality despises anything that stands out, that’s different, that cannot be controlled, that is not familiar or does not belong to its own narrative. This mentality explains why in its letter of congratulations to Stefanidi’s mother, SYRIZA referred to her as “comrade.” The leftists must have therefore been doubly disappointed when Stefanidi herself did not display the required respect for the party in comments referring to the article on Dimas.
On a different note, what the comments of all of the Olympians had in common, what they all agreed on, was the huge amount of work that is needed to achieve a major goal. Young people all of them, they expressed with clarity and immediacy the way they view their victory, their performance and their very selves. “There is no secret. I have worked very hard,” gymnast Lefteris Petrounias has said every time he’s been asked what it takes to get the gold.
These athletes have all expressed their love for the country they represent, have shown that they are committed to their work and that they are ready to put themselves to the test every day. They are, in that respect, regular people – albeit in an irregular country. But they are also extraordinary people because they are not relying on some party or another to build their careers. Their success is not due to the important people they know: You can’t be a champion simply because you enjoy the support of the establishment. In their field, meritocracy is inevitable, irrespective of the difficulties that arise or the behind-the-scenes politics that may prevail. These people are judged every single day of their lives, and this gives them confidence and freedom.
The government, it seems, was unable to handle so much independence from young people who have learned to rely on nothing but their own strengths and the support of their coaches. The only ideology they serve is excellence and the only strategy they follow is that which will get them on the pedestal. This is the only way to get results, because this is a modus vivendi dictated by rules, not by bans.