OPINION

Awkward guardians

The easiest, least painful and most acceptable thing to do for much of the public view these days is condemn Greek sprint stars Costas Kenteris, Katerina Thanou and their coach Christos Tzekos. In that way, you can pin the blame for the country’s humiliation on these three people alone and turn the Olympic spotlight on what you want to accentuate: splendid new venues, a rejuvenated capital, a glitch-free Games. This is how the Greek media reacted to the news. And not without good reason. Many athletes around the world, the theory goes, fail doping tests daily. Wrongdoers are suspended without their country being humiliated. Why did Greece not escape disparagement? The controversy broke out last Thursday on the eve of the opening ceremony. Why did Greek officials fail to eject them from the national team? Responsible officials have not provided a sufficient explanation. But this does not amount to a charge against the two champions and their coach. Rather, it raises suspicions the guilt is collective, and thus graver. A quick overview shows that over the past eight years, Greece’s sports policy has focused on winning medals and achieving international recognition. We adopted old-style socialist practices such as awarding military ranks to our 94 Olympic champions and lowering demands for university entry. We embraced sponsors – an institution that is a far cry from Olympic ideals. Our sports policy is incompatible with pure sportsmanship, of which we are the purported guardians. As the Kenteris-Thanou fiasco shows, Greek policy has not stopped responsible officials from keeping a neutral stand, from tolerating or even veiling cases of wrongdoing. The responsibility on the part of those morally responsible overshadows any responsibility of the actual perpetrators.