NEWS

Greece, FYROM pick up dispute at Olympics

Greece intervened yesterday to prevent the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from making good on its threat to take part in today’s Beijing Olympics opening ceremony under its constitutional name of «Republic of Macedonia.» Greek diplomats were forced into action after the secretary general of FYROM’s Olympic Committee, Sashe Popovski, stated that Skopje had reached agreement with the Chinese Olympic Committee and the Beijing organizers for the country’s athletes to enter the Olympic Stadium as the Republic of Macedonia. Officials from Greece began contacting high-ranking figures in the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure that this will not happen. Publicly, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis laughed off FYROM’s assertion that it would enter the stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, under its constitutional name, which under a longstanding agreement between Athens and Skopje cannot be used by the neighboring country at international sporting events like the Olympics. «We are a serious country that organized totally successful Olympics and we are not going to concern ourselves with something that borders on the absurd,» she told journalists during a visit to the Main Press Center. Bakoyannis said that Greece was not interested in making a fuss over the matter and pointed out that the IOC recognizes Greece’s neighbor as FYROM and that Greek officials had asked for the appropriate action to be taken if the country’s officials and athletes behave inappropriately. «Even making a reference to this goal is a joke,» said the head of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Minos Kyriakou. «It is impossible, as the official name of the country is FYROM, which is used by the United Nations and the IOC. I don’t think they would dare try to change the existing situation.» Kyriakou added that an official complaint had been sent to the head of the Beijing organizing committee, Liu Qi, regarding a reference to FYROM athletes on the official Games website, in which it called them «Macedonians.»