CULTURE

Signatures in favor of an Olympic Truce for the 2004 Athens Games

It was a great moment when Nelson Mandela, who led the fight against violence and human rights abuse, the man who spent 27 years in South African prisons for his principles and then went on to become his country’s president, took the pen from Foreign Minister George Papandreou and signed the Olympic Truce Initiative on June 19. The audience, comprising representatives of the world of sports and culture gathered in the Mitropoulos Hall at the Athens Concert Hall, held its breath – and then burst into tumultuous applause. Papandreou spoke of the importance of the support of such a great man for an Olympic truce, for peace on earth during the Olympic Games to take place in Athens, 2004. Mandela expressed the wish that the truce, which was observed during the ancient Olympic Games for 12 centuries, would be revived once again in Athens. Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said that few people had achieved so much as Mandela and Mikis Theodorakis, who wrote his first symphony in prison, in their fight for freedom. Mandela was accompanied by his close friend from those difficult years, George Bizos, who also acted as his interpreter during the ceremony. Also on the stage were the Olympic truce ambassadors (in alphabetical order) Theodoros Angelopoulos, Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler, Mikis Theodorakis, Leonidas Kavakos, Eleni Karaindrou, Yiannis Kounellis, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Nana Mouskouri, Jules Dassin, Dimitris Papaioannou (who will direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games), Dimitris Sgouros, Takis, and Dionysis Fotopoulos. At the event were sportsmen, including sprinter Costas Kenderis, weightlifter Kakhi Kakhiashvili and wrestler Stefanos Migiakis, parliamentary deputy Panayiotis Fasoulas, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Vassilis Vassilikos and opera singer Vasso Papantoniou. Among the politicians and officials in attendance were former minister Theodoros Pangalos, Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis, National Bank Governor Theodoros Karatzas, Fotis Kouvelis, who is the Left Coalition’s candidate for mayor, sitting next to the Coalition’s Maria Damanaki, and the ambassadors of China, Portugal, Albania, Tunisia and Switzerland. It was a wonderful event, as are all those inspired by the Olympic ideal. The prevailing feeling was that if peace could be achieved for 16 days, perhaps one day it could be achieved forever.