OPINION

Why do politicians never say sorry?

why-do-politicians-never-say-sorry

Greek athletes have produced some special moments in this different, rather melancholic Olympics in Tokyo which is taking place without spectators. Some athletes won medals, some put on a great performance, some failed. As the Games unfold, more success could be in store for the country.

Still, a lot of attention was rightfully focused on the outburst of an athlete who did not win a place on the podium, did not snatch a medal, and did not break any records. However, the frustration that he expressed during a post-game interview struck a deep chord in the country. Many ordinary people as well as private businesses which offered him sponsorship deals were touched by the man’s emotional appeal. 

Weightlifter Theodoros Iakovidis spoke from the heart as he described the financial and other obstacles he had to overcome on the way to Tokyo. His comments exposed the inadequacies of many state officials that casually rush to partake in the success of the winning athletes and who eye some of the glory of the Olympic medals, but who obviously do very little to provide the conditions the athletes need in order to excel.

Retired weightlifting giant Pyrros Dimas did not shy away from responsibility. He also offered an apology. “I am part of Greek sports and I accept my share of responsibility for Theodoros Iakovidis’ tears in Tokyo,” he said in a post. “I could analyze the situation at EOAV [Greece’s weightlifting federation] so that you can then draw your own conclusions. From the Olympic properties which remained unused to the shame of 2008 and from the financial crisis to the political scapegoating of 2015… I have made many mistakes, but anyone who tries also makes mistakes. I have big responsibilities. Now they are even bigger. I am sorry, Theodoros. We must try harder. For Iakovidis, for every Iakovidis,” Dimas said.

Why is it so hard for the politicians who have ruled Greece in the previous decades to offer an apology for their mistakes? Sure, in the case of Greek society the situation is much more complex as voters elected politicians who made unrealistic promises, while turning their back on those few candidates that spoke the uncomfortable truth. Greece’s social security system is a typical example of this. Anyone who openly warned that more early pensions or hikes would put too much strain on the budget rendered themself unelectable. The cuts were later imposed by the country’s foreign lenders, of course.

Will we ever hear a Greek politician apologize for a mistake, big or small? An apology is not absolution. But it is the least they can do if they really want to build a better Greece. Greek politicians must assume their responsibilities. In fact, some of the most prominent among them have a lot to answer for. They will be judged. The judgment will be more severe for those who indulge in the perks of power with no intention of self-criticism.