Friday August 1, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
31o C
24o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Olympic torch-lighting a bittersweet moment

Aphrodite Tagios broke down in tears as cream-robed priestesses struck graceful poses on a grassy slope at the birthplace of the Olympics in a solemn ceremony that reminded her of her countrys glorious past and how far it has fallen since.

With debt-stricken Greece risking bankruptcy and an exit from the eurozone, many Greeks watched the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in the ruins of ancient Olympia on Thursday with bittersweet pangs of pride mixed with sadness and anger.

I wanted to scream to all Greeks that they have to remember the Greek spirit because were losing it, said the 33-year-old Tagios, one of some 5,000 spectators who gathered on the slopes of an ancient arena to watch the ceremony unfold.

The spirit that we saw here and what it represented - we just dont have it anymore. After an economic boom in the early 2000s, the country that gave birth to the Olympics today is mired in its fifth year of recession that has left one in five Greeks jobless.

While ceremonial priestesses danced in sandals and invoked the sun god Apollo to light the Olympic flame, Greek politicians in Athens, a four-hour drive away, squabbled over forming a new government after elections last week, pushing the country deeper into turmoil.

The once-mighty nation today depends on financial aid from partners to avoid running out of money, and its current state of affairs is particularly galling to local archaeologist Kostantinos Antonopoulos.

He gets a daily taste of Greeces past splendour as he works amid the toppled columns and ruins of this small town where men from all over Greece first competed in 776 BC, in honour of the father of the gods Zeus, for a wild olive wreath.

Tucked away amid olive, pine and towering oak trees, the ancient arena where the high priestess handed the flame and an olive branch to the first torchbearer on Thursday was measured by Hercules, according to myth.

I think every day -- how is it possible that a country with this civilization, with this cultural heritage, ended up in a situation like this? said the 38-year-old Antonopoulos.

Like many others across Greece, he has felt the blow from the crisis first hand. Multiple rounds of spending cuts imposed by Greece to get its finances on track have slashed his salary by 40 percent, leaving him with 800 euros to get by each month.

Were hanging on by our fingernails, he said.

Reinforcing the sense of despair, armed thieves overpowered a female guard and looted a museum in Olympia earlier this year, making off with over 70 bronze and pottery artefacts.

The towns mayor, Eythimios Kotzas, says Olympia is surviving the crisis better than many others in Greece due to a reliance on foreign tourists, who continue to arrive in buses and cruise ships.

However, locals say the Greek tourists who arrive rarely spend much money and the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony - and the crowds it brought to the restaurants and shops - was a welcome break.

The Olympics are very poignant for us, said Nikos Doulas, a 32-year-old as he sat in the town-centre restaurant that his grandfather opened in 1937.

I am proud of the Olympics but disappointed by our present state. We are just not the same as our ancestors. [Reuters]

ekathimerini.com , Thursday May 10, 2012 (17:04)  
Greeks Gone West: George Lois
Monastiraki Square hit by arbitrary interventions
The Greek summer experience, with learning to boot
Greeks Gone West: Pantelis Rompolas
ARCHITECTURE
Modernist giant wakes up from deep slumber
Like a decadent, ailing giant that failed to awe, the Doxiadis Office Building for years sat neglected on the foot of Lycabettus Hill, discreetly overlooking the capital's upmarket, albeit i...
Greek National Opera puts on an electric Otello
Acclaimed French director Yannis Kokkos leads the Greek National Opera in a psychological, avant-garde production of Giuseppe Verdi's Otello, in which he strips the opera down to its basic...
Inside Life
Inside Travel
Inside Gastronomy
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. One win and one loss in Europa League
2. Greece to help hundreds of Chinese leave Libya
3. Traders unhappy with turnover
4. No rivals for Intralot as it bags racing bet permit
5. Energy cost cuts even without EU approval
6. KEPE: Greek economy returned to growth in Q2
more news
Today
This Week
1. Motorists refusing to pay tolls on Corinth-Kalamata highway to be monitored
2. Euro flows reveal shift in sentiment as losses mount
3. Greece may ignore EU and lower energy costs for business, says minister
4. EU puzzles over emergency funds for euro area bank crisis agency
5. Only 5 percent of stores see brisker business during this year's summer sales
6. Fake psychic caught in Thessaloniki after gaining 35,000 from victim
Today
This Week
1. Quadriplegic woman on life support 'dies due to unpaid power bills'
2. Wine cup used by Pericles found in grave north of Athens
3. Defense Minister Avramopoulos to represent Greece at European Commission
4. Worlds largest solar boat on Greek mission
5. Greece names fifth privatization agency chief in four years
6. Greek coast guard picks up 77 migrants off Myconos
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.