Hostage to illusions

In the shadow of the grand illusion – which depicted the Olympic Games as a «national vision» and called on the people to sacrifice any reservations they might have (economic, environmental or ideological) upon their altar – it was natural for a number of smaller illusions to emerge. One of the illusions was about the manner in which foreigners would welcome the return of the Games to Athens. We had no doubt (some of us still insist) that outsiders – most importantly, political and sports officials – would be moved to see the Games return to their birthplace. Moreover, we were sure that their excitement would prompt them to help us «resurrect» and «purify» a contaminated product and persuade them to treat the «small albeit earnest» homeland with an open mind. Now, we realize that none of this happened. For nothing really could have. The «Games in moderation» will never take place, for no one ever wanted them – neither the IOC, nor the sponsors, nor even the Athens 2004 organizers. Furthermore, we have been catapulted onto center stage, but not for the reasons we assumed or anticipated. Delays in Olympic-related preparations have allowed foreign news media as well as sports and political officials to criticize, deplore or mock us. The criticism is not always sincere or grounded in truth. Ours was not, back in 1996, when we belittled Atlanta’s winning bid to host the Games. The worst thing we could do – as we tend to in similar cases – would be to denounce foreign reservations as being part of an «anti-Greek conspiracy.» That would mean taking refuge behind the most paralyzing of our illusions – the one that has it that we are envied by anyone who is not Greek, merely because we are born superior to all in every way.

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