President’s New Year’s honors included award for creator of Olympic ceremonies

“Even as are the generations of leaves such are those likewise of men,» Homer once wrote. One could say the same of the prizes and awards presented to those who distinguish themselves in science, the arts, education and society. The year 2004 was one of preparing for and worrying about the Athens Olympics, with the eyes of the whole world turned on the country where the Olympic Flame set out to shed its light on the Olympic ideal, a concept which these days has been colored by other, negative factors, such as the commercialization of the Games, doping and the dark shadow of terrorism. On August 13, Athens raised the flag on the Olympics which had come home – and the country held its breath. The packed Olympic Stadium was lit by the Attic sunset, the fireworks, and the thousands of little lights held by spectators. The music and history of the country that gave birth to arts, geometry, poetry, and love of liberty passed before our astonished eyes in the form of a pageant of time, united with the elements of air, water, light and fire, as Eros winged above us, aiming his arrow at the grandstands at the magical opening ceremony. Then there was the closing ceremony, when the audience left the stands clutching sheaves of wheat and the best of impressions. Both of these wonderful ceremonies were beamed around the whole world, convincing millions of people that «little Greece put on the best Olympics.» Both ceremonies were conceived and executed by Dimitris Papaioannou, a distinguished director, choreographer and artist just into his 40s. He is justifiably regarded as Person of the Year, the one who ignited the flame of success with inspiration and quality and justifiably was awarded the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor, along with Marton Simitsek, managing director of the Olympic Games Organizing Committee. The title of Commander of the Order of Honor went to Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. These were the final distinctions awarded by the outgoing president, Costis Stephanopoulos, who said, «Let the flame that was lit in Olympia never be extinguished in our hearts.»

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