OPINION

The Greek ‘filotimo’

The success of the Athens Games is to a large degree owed to the Greeks’ «filotimo,» a sense of national pride, an intense feeling of honor and dignity that unfortunately only awakens in difficult times, when superhuman effort is demanded of us to meet some national challenge. Our sense of national pride helped us finish the Olympic projects on time. It was responsible for a record number of volunteers for the Games, in a country that is a laggard in blood and organ donors. The venues hosting the softball, hockey, trampoline and badminton competitions were all packed with Greek fans who knew little, if anything at all, about these Games. It was the reason we became disciplined drivers – if only for a few days. Finally, the Greeks’ sense of national pride helped create a climate of security. This last contribution does not just concern the threat of global terrorism – which was perhaps averted thanks to draconian security measures. It rather refers to the domestic troublemakers who refrained from their usual practice of nighttime explosions that some foreign media would have been eager to describe as an «orgy of terrorism.» Perhaps local troublemakers resisted the temptation to grab global attention for fear of popular condemnation at home. However, even the cause of this armistice – the repression of anarchist ideas for the sake of the common good – was clearly an expression of national pride. An ephemeral trait as it may be, this sense of filotimo can make up for mistakes and failures, turn gloom into optimism, turn a nightmare into an unhoped-for miracle. Fortunately, national pride is expressed in a unanimous and dynamic fashion – except when narrow-mindedness prevails, such as when protesters put up an anti-American banner on the Acropolis.