Between Olympia and Livadia

Since tradition must be maintained, even in reverse, «40 guys from Hooligansville went and thrashed Livadia (to paraphrase the old song). Of course Hooligansville doesn’t appear on the map of Greece because it doesn’t have a fixed location, but is forever shifting. Wherever teams compete in any sport, their supporters, organized in the form of militias, go into action. And whether under the influence of fanaticism or some chemical narcotic, the outcome is the same: attacks against opposing fan-militias, burning cars, beating up journalists. Football in particular has ceased to be an opportunity to let off steam through symbolic ceremonies of violence since real violence has long taken center stage. However, there is no reason for the Winter Olympics Flame to pass through Livadia. The city had its own real fires on the same day that the ritual lighting of the flame in Olympia convinced the government and sporting officials that they ought to rehash all that fine talk about the birthplace of the sporting spirit which exports it every two years to the rest of the world. Somewhere between Olympia and Livadia, between complacent rhetoric and a reality so disturbing that we prefer not to see it, we have lost the truth – or rather, our ability to recognize the truth and accept it and thus to attempt to turn it around. In reality, what rules is neither the pure sporting spirit nor the notion of any sporting event as a festival but the most violent behavior, the impunity of sporting entrepreneurs and the cowardice of the political leadership. One only needed to see the embittered gaze of two athletes who won the European championship in Portugal, Costas Katsouranis and Traianos Dellas, one only needed to hear their bitterly disappointed words after their team’s game in Livadia, to realize that there is no turning back.

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