CULTURE

President honors 14 Greek VIPs of politics, arts, music

A ll 14 Greek celebrities who received awards from Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday made their mark on the 20th century by playing a leading role in their own fields. The recipients of the Award of the Phoenix and the gold and silver Cross have distinguished themselves in areas ranging from politics, economics, business and diplomacy to culture, education, art, song and theater. «As long as I am president, I shall confer awards twice a year, after the New Year and on the anniversary of the reinstatement of democracy, on July 24, 1974, because there are many people who have not received awards and who deserve them,» said Stephanopoulos in his address. The Grand Cross of the Phoenix went to two politicians from different parties – militant former Greek Democratic Left deputy and later Synaspismos Left Coalition General-Secretary Leonidas Kyrkos, and Yiannis Boutos, who is from a family involved in politics, a former deputy, minister and Bank of Greece governor, as well as to honorary ambassador Byron Theodoropoulos for his internationally recognized contribution to diplomacy. Theodoros Katrivanos and Evangelos Kouloumbis, two politicians who became involved in local government, received the Order of the Phoenix, as did Professor Haralambos Bouras, an architect, the president of the committee for conservation of the Acropolis monuments, and a member of the Central Archaeological Council, and also Professor Dimitris Maronitis of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, whose writings on ancient and modern Greek and whose teaching the president praised. Industrialist Eleftherios Mouzakis from Smyrna, who funded the construction of the Aghios Nektarios church on Aegina, received the Gold Cross of the Phoenix. So did Gerasimos Vassilopoulos, known for his AB supermarket chain, who also founded the Food Bank to distribute food to children’s groups and the poor. As Stephanopoulos said: «It’s not just wealth but the social contribution that is honored.» The same honor went to lawyer and art collector Vlassis Frissiras, who created a museum of contemporary art in his neoclassical building in Plaka, the Frissiras Museum. Warm, spontaneous applause, a broad smile and moist eyes greeted the award of the Gold Cross of the Phoenix to Grigoris Bithikotsis, composer, incomparable singer of the songs of Theodorakis and Hadjidakis, aristocrat of musical recordings and bard of genuine popular music, and that of Anna Kalouta, leading performer in musicals, and Rena Vlachopoulou, singer and former film star (who was unable to attend for health reasons). Anastasia Krystallidou received the Silver Cross for her contribution to education in South Africa. «We deserve the award, because we created the applause, and we put laughter, poetry and song into the lives of Greeks,» said Bithikotsis, known as Sir, about the awards to the performing artists.