OPINION

When the party’s over

The curtain fell on the Olympics in a spirit of festivity, perhaps more akin to a funfair, but no matter. The important thing is that over the past two months, from the Euro 2004 soccer championship final in Portugal to the Athens Olympics, Greece has been flying high, in the midst of victories, triumphs, surprises, outbursts of enthusiasm and self-esteem. There have been moments of bitternesss, but these were transcended by the feeling we were able to do more than we ever imagined possible, that we belong among the deserving winners. Greece’s victories this summer have not only been won in the stadiums but also in the arena of life, symbolically and practically speaking. We have proved, most of all to ourselves, that we can achieve important goals as long as we are dedicated, focused, persistent. We also showed an astonished international public the stereotypes of the undisciplined and unreliable Greeks are no more that – simply stereotypes, shallow and ridiculous. At the crucial moment, we showed not only that we had organizational and technocratic abilities, but good taste and a high standard of hospitality, politeness and discipline. More than that, we actually enjoyed it. This summer will remain in our memories as a celebration. But all good things must come to an end – and be paid for. As of today, no more Olympic traffic lanes, banners or special arrangements. Greeks will go to back to routine and start paying for the party. That will be the most difficult sport of all; with medals we will have to win at any price. Post-Olympic normality is not likely to go back to what it was prior to June, but will continue on its victorious flight, perhaps at a lower altitude, but no less significantly. The greatest challenge from now on will be to capitalize on our achievements, material and symbolic, to spread the know-how and experience throughout society, to maintain self-confidence and drive, cautious optimism and discipline. We showed we have virtues, but now we have to maintain them. So we can pay the bill, remain on track for progress and growth, a track that will not be as joyful as the one we have been on, but far more important. And so, as the lights went out in the stadium, and as the festivities died down, life headed back in earnest, relentlessly. That is when we will have to prove we know how to be capable and deserving, even after the party is over.