Moderation lost

Ever since Greece decided to bid for the 2004 Olympic Games, Kathimerini has expressed its reservations. The newspaper did not hesitate to reiterate its concerns even on the day the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Athens had won the bid, in the face of a wave of enthusiasm that swept over any objection. However, our stance has not been exclusively guided by our past reservations. Regardless of any grievances, every Greek wholeheartedly wishes to see the Games succeed. And each one wants to see an alternative Olympiad, an event that would signal that the Games are not merely a commodified spectacle. Our objections over the manner in which next year’s Games are being organized are prompted by indications so far that this «alternative spirit» has been sacrificed. And if the spirit has been sidelined by economic and organizational concerns that have turned the event into a matter of concern only for a small elite, the unveiling of the torch relay justified worries that the Greek authorities made no effort to limit the commodification that permeates the IOC. On the contrary, Greek officials choose to add to the spirit of immoderation by offering a touch of Greek flavor – something that may pass the foreigners unnoticed, but which strikes all Greeks as a blatant manifestation of bad taste and self-interest. The Greek-inspired mixture of bad taste and political expediency can already be seen in the premature lightning of the torch, March 25, so as to give the current political elite an opportunity to attend the hoopla of the opening Olympic ceremonies, given that the actual competitions may well take place under a different government. The fact that this also happened in 1896 is an insufficient excuse, as times are very different now. But all these pale next to plans by Greek organizers to wed the «local color» of our national anniversary with the respect for classic antiquity that the Olympics warrant: A ceremonial religious service at the ancient site of Olympia, a fusion of chlamys and traditional pleated white skirts (foustanela), the awkwardness of having to commemorate the anniversary of a national rebellion while promoting the spirit of the Olympic truce across the world. The bright opening will be followed by a seven-day journey to Athens which will probably be glamorized with several inauguration ceremonies and, after that, a two-month lull at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens – as the torch cannot be on the move for five consecutive months, heavy as its commercial schedule may be. Needless to say, of course, that all these matters are being decided amid a constant refrain of moderation. Yet, they sound more like hubris.