Great challenge

The big moment has arrived. Tonight the Athens 2004 Olympic Games are set to open with a grand ceremony. A mammoth sum of money and a great deal of human effort has been invested in this colossal event. Commonly held expectations about the country’s capabilities were overcome. Despite the foot-dragging and the budget overruns caused by the delays, the preparations for the Games have finished on time, drawing praise even from what used to be Greece’s most vitriolic critics. Our country is being tested before a global audience. Never before – and probably never again in the future – will Greece ever become the center of attention for so great a number of people. The Games present us with an unprecedented challenge, a unique opportunity to improve Greece’s image in the world. The advantages of hosting the Games cannot be estimated in euros or dollars – but could be a tonic for future development. We have reached a point where we cannot afford to do anything but win this crucial wager. Our biggest enemy is our own bad self, so we must make sure our traditional flaws do not surface. A mistake, a slow reaction or neglect – even by low-ranking officials – is enough to wreck this hard-won and costly accomplishment. The 25-minute blackout that hit the national broadcast of a soccer game between Greece and South Korea is an example to be avoided. A similar glitch during a crucial final in a popular sports event could have disastrous consequences. There is a simple yet weighty conclusion to be drawn from all this. The success of this gigantic undertaking lies in the hands of everyone involved. The responsibility is both collective and individual at the same time. Everyone must carry out his or her task with cautiousness, self-discipline and consistency. This is the only way to avert dangerous snags and complications. Greece is prepared to stage a high-quality Olympic Games and wishes to become an example for future hosts. It would be unfair to those who have given their best to ensure a memorable Games and those who have shouldered the financial burden, if this global celebration were to be tainted by instances of frivolity, neglect or a lackadaisical attitude. Greeks must be on standby night and day in order to make sure the Games are a success. The objective conditions are present. It will all depend on the human factor – that is, all our fellow citizens who are first in the line of battle.

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