CULTURE

Special Olympics athletes honored; Unesco ladies meet

Greece’s team returned from the 9th Special Olympics Winter Games in Idaho with nine gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals. Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas congratulated team members this week at a ceremony at Zappeion Hall, where he awarded them Parliament’s Silver Medal. Gianna Despotopoulou, president of Greece’s Special Olympics Committee, thanked Sioufas and Parliament for their help in organizing the Special Olympics that Athens will host in 2011. She awarded him the Gold Medal, the Special Olympics’ highest distinction for this support. US Vice President Joe Biden met the Greek delegation in Washington and was photographed with Despotopoulou and Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos. Biden accepted an invitation to the 2011 Games but added, «You will see me there much earlier, because a part of my heart has remained in your beautiful country.» Also this week, Mehriban Aliyeva, first lady of Azerbaijan, a qualified physician, member of Parliament and president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, who was named a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador for Oral and Musical Traditions in 2004, was in Athens this week, accompanying her husband on an official visit, where she had the opportunity to meet with fellow Unesco Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis, president of the Elpida (Hope) association for the friends of children with cancer. The two envoys visited the Athens Art Gallery, where they posed before a Yiannis Moralis painting with gallery director Marina Lambraki-Plaka. They then visited Elpida’s hospice, where Aliyeva showed great interest in the help that it provides to patients and their parents. «I had heard much about your work but what I see surpasses its reputation,» Aliyeva said, congratulating Vardinoyannis and members of the board. She gave presents to children and spoke with their parents. The two ladies will meet at the annual gathering of Unesco goodwill ambassadors in Paris on March 3.