Mikis taken out of Games

Such was the furor caused by composer Mikis Theodorakis’s complaints over the failure of state television, ERT, to mention his name during the playing of his Canto Olympico during the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in Saturday’s opening ceremony that even Prime Minister Costas Simitis felt the need to step in yesterday. He telephoned the composer and said he himself would investigate the issue. Press Minister Christos Protopappas said yesterday that he too, «with great respect,» had demanded an explanation of ERT. Theodorakis, who is best-known internationally for his score for «Zorba the Greek,» denounced ERT on Sunday for not saying that it was his composition that was played in the opening ceremony. He claimed ERT had been blacklisting him intermittently since 1960. «It appears that those who have tried to smother my voice for several decades have not tired of trying, and they believe that by hiding my contribution from the Greek public, they will prevent my music and Greek name from being heard across the world,» Theodorakis charged. «I grieve that I have to make this statement that takes us back decades. It is the fault of those unreformed forces of darkness who appear to have nine lives.» A mortified ERT responded with «sorrow and apologies,» saying that the Olympic organizers had, «in a serious lapse,» not announced the identity of the piece nor its composer. On Sunday, the Games’ organizers had admitted this to ERT in a statement and apologized verbally, the broadcaster said. «ERT will continue to use all means at its disposal to make the organizers correct this exceptionally unfortunate and serious error,» ERT’s board said. The opposition New Democracy party’s shadow culture minister, Manolis Kefaloyiannis, demanded in Parliament that the ministers of culture and press reply whether they would «continue to ignore those artists who do not belong to the ruling party.» The conservative party’s spokesman charged that this confirmed ERT was «governed by authoritarianism and a lack of meritocracy.» The Communist Party general secretary, Aleka Papariga, contacted the Foreign Ministry to demand that it press the Olympic organizers for an explanation. «The whole issue shows that this was not a technical mistake nor an oversight, but American political intervention in the Organizing Committee,» the party said in a statement. Theodorakis, too, saw ERT’s apology as an indication of something more sinister. «It appears that the issue has broader ramifications than were first apparent. This is a clear insult by the organizers to the composer and to Greece in general,» he claimed in a statement yesterday. He did not rule out the possibility «that there was intervention from higher up at the last minute, possibly for the withdrawal of the work from the ceremony, for reasons that we in Greece all know.» This was a reference to Theodorakis’s widely publicized criticism of US policy in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

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