Coming to terms with mediocrity

Anyone trying to find a logical explanation for Greece’s Olympic achievements will have a tough time doing so. Since Voula Patoulidou’s famous quip after winning her gold medal in Barcelona, the special moments in Atlanta in 1996 and the triumphs in Sydney in 2000, it was plain sailing right up to the 16 medals at the Athens Olympiad, at least as far as the medal count was concerned. That is, right up until the defeats in Beijing, albeit interspersed with a few bright moments. This small country with its great expectations and even greater dreams, which abhors moderation and feels only vindication in excess, continually places its hopes in «others» to satisfy its desperate need for success. Parents demand that their children become champions and then the entire country invests too much in the Games. Not in the arts or letters or in education, in what we call culture, even to a somewhat embarassing extent. This over-investment in sport is a political decison, but when reality fails to fulfil expectations, our national narcissism is injured, our sense of disappointment is out of proportion and we reject the losers without hesitation. It is true that success is a balm for many ills, but we all know – and particularly the authorities – that in this world of doping and our lack of infrastructure, we can only continue to hope, mainly, in imported athletes. There is only one way to get off the roller-coaster of emotion that elevates heroes sky-high only to dash them to the ground when they lose. And that is to realize that we are a mediocre country on the fringes of Europe, with mediocre achievements, taste, habits, opinions and fears. It is a realization that brings with it an element of redemption, finally. For we face a reality that cannot be disputed. Indeed, it is being confirmed on a daily basis.