OPINION

Polishing the image of Greece

Leading foreign news media are now crowing with praise of Greece. The habitually critical disposition of the press has radically changed. The turnaround in the mood is striking: «A new Greece is born. We should take note of the fact,» concluded a front-page article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. «The Greek Phenomenon,» read the cover of Italy’s Panorama magazine a few weeks before. The catalyst for change has no doubt been the Olympic Games and the big infrastructure projects that were carried out for the occasion. Unfamiliar with the fact that Greeks have a penchant for doing everything at the very last moment, foreign commentators seem even more impressed. «What many critics considered impossible as little as a year ago has suddenly become reality,» said a report by The Associated Press from Athens. However, we should not merely be satisfied with finally receiving credit for our efforts or with silencing our critics. Greece is presented with a golden opportunity. It has the chance to transform its image, not merely for the duration of the Games but on a permanent basis. We should put an end to the near-spontaneous tendency of many foreigners who treat Greece as an exotic mixture of the Balkans, Levant and a dash of Europe. Greece must grab this opportunity and consolidate itself in the European conscience as part of the developed world – where it truly belongs. That would also prompt a change of attitude toward its citizens and the country. Achieving this, of course, presupposes a systematic, painstaking and substantial effort on our behalf. The timely completion of Olympics-related projects and infrastructure was met with a shower of praise from the foreign media as the Games catapulted the country onto center stage. This is an important lesson for us: Should we display cautiousness, industriousness and vigilance, managing to bring this colossal endeavor to a successful end, then we will have laid the ground for a fresh image abroad – a change that will bestow many significant long-term gains.