The rise of the Greek Olympic team

Greek sports were for decades the «poor relative» in most fields. There was some success in sailing, in wrestling and occasionally in track and field and weightlifting. The Greek team was always the first to enter the stadium at each Olympic Games opening ceremony, but usually came home with empty bags. The bronze medal won by Giorgos Roubanis in the pole vault in the 1956 Olympics was the exception to the rule. Between 1928 and 1952, Greece did not win a single medal. In 1924 Constantinos Dimitriadis won a gold medal for… sculpture! Other medals followed in sailing – gold in 1960, silver in 1972 and bronze in 1980, wrestling – bronze in 1968, silver in 1972, gold and bronze in 1980, silver and bronze in 1984 (though that was due to the absence of the Soviet team and those of all its allies) and bronze in 1988. All those years, and particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, there was widespread use of drugs. As far as is known, it was not organized. Usually athletes took substances they had heard about from other athletes. In several cases, the drugs were given to them by their coaches, who were largely ignorant of their side effects. That is why so many athletes fell ill or even died. After several significant successes in track and field between 1966-75, Greece’s classical track and field sector went into crisis. In 1982, however, Anna Verouli became European champion in the javelin, with Sofia Sakorafa third. Those years are considered to be the beginning of the «official doping» era. In 1984 a huge scandal broke out when four weightlifters and three track and field athletes failed a doping test. Over the next few years, federation officials made attempts to tackle the problem, naturally resulting in fewer records. Since 1992, when Pyrros Dimas (weightlifting) and Voula Patoulidou (track and field) won gold medals, successes came thick and fast, in those sports and others. In 1996 Greece won four gold and four silver medals, in 2000, four gold, six silver and three bronze. Four years later, the ratio was 6-6-4, not to mention the number of medals won at World and European championships. Certainly these achievements were not all the result of doping, but some definitely were. Since then, more and more athletes have been caught, for two reasons. Firstly, an increasing number of athletes are opting for the easy way, which in some sports is the only way to get to the top. Secondly, doping checks are more intensive, so more athletes are being caught.