Athletes such as gymnast Lefteris Petrounias and shooter Anna Korakaki, both gold medalists at the 2016 Rio Olympics, are used to applause. Indeed, just a few short months ago, they were likely imagining hearing the crowd roar as they once again stepped up to the podium at the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics.
The world, of course, has since changed, and there will be no such sporting glories this summer, no images of Greek athletes weeping tears of joy beaming into homes across the country.
Yet there is still pride, only of a different kind.
As Greeks emerge cautiously from an unprecedented period of lockdown, a new ad campaign has been released in which Petrounias, Korakaki and other sports figures take their turn to acknowledge and praise discipline and determination: this time that shown by ordinary citizens in the country’s efforts to keep the Covid-19 coronavirus at bay.
These efforts have proven remarkably successful, with Greece to date having one of the lowest death rates from the virus in the developed world, a fact which has earned it extensive praise in the international media and bolstered its global reputation.
While the government’s decision to impose a lockdown early in the crisis no doubt played an important role in avoiding widespread transmission of the virus, vital too has been the behaviour of ordinary Greeks who, with very few exceptions, have obeyed the restrictive measures and social distancing guidelines with notable stoicism.
And it is precisely this collective spirit that the new ad, created by online gaming company company Stoiximan, seeks to highlight. In it, shots of deserted city streets and empty stadiums are intercut with images of ordinary citizens and athletes confined in their homes.
“At the end of the day, what sets us apart is not that we know how to win. It’s knowing how to win defying the odds,” says the narrator, the beloved singer-songwriter and actor Yannis Zouganelis.
Appearing in the ad alongside Petrounias and Korakaki are retired gymnast (and Petrounias’ wife) Vasiliki Milousi, pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi, retired basketball player Dimitris Diamantidis, open-water swimmer Spyros Gianniotis, former Celtic striker Georgios Samaras, and the footballers Mathieu Valbuena and Adelino Vieirinha who play for the Greek clubs Olypiacos and PAOK respectively.
“It seems like when you expect us to break, we become stronger. Resembling, even for a moment, heroes. Heroes that show what people can achieve when they are united. We are in this fight together and we will win as one team,” the narration concludes, as the athletes slowly emerge onto their balconies.
Then, in a move reminiscent of scenes that have been repeated countless times around the world, the athletes seek to show their appreciation for their fellow citizens in the simplest way possible: with a round of applause.