Goteborgs-Posten – A Homecoming for the Spirit of the Games
By George Papandreou
In The Odyssey, Homer wrote that “There is no greater glory for a man in all his life that what he wins with his own feet and hands.”
It is in this spirit that billions of people around the world will be watching the Athens Olympics during the next two weeks. Well beyond the politics and the security concerns that surround the Games, past all the ommercialism, it is that noble effort of men and women to surpass their limitations that ultimately triggers our deepest emotions and keeps the Olympic movement relevant to this day.
For every single Greek man and woman, however, in all the places around the globe they may call home, the fact that our nation and Hellenism as a whole, has finished the very long and arduous race of preparing for the Games and reaching the opening day, is a source of immense pride and joy. Not merely because we have won some kind of international bet and because Greece has proved that a small nation can indeed host the greatest international athletic event in the world, but above all because we have remained true to the values that have guided us for thousands of years.
Just a few weeks ago, Greece celebrated the 30th anniversary of the reinstatement of democracy after the collapse of a bloody junta. In these three decades, the collective road travelled has been long and often bumpy, but our national accomplishments have been unmistakable. Greece is now not only a proud member of the European Union and the international community, but a recognised force for peace and stability. Cyprus, as well, divided thirty years ago by military occupation, is also an EU member and guarantor for the islands future.
Greek society has worked very hard in the time that has passed to build bridges within itself and tear down the divides that once kept it on the sidelines of international development. Greek citizens, both men and women, farmers, entrepreneurs, labourers, business people have worked hard to build an economy that rightfully joined the European Monetary Union and has become an engine for growth in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.
This is the nation and these are the people that undertook the great challenge of hosting the Olympic Games and that have completed two extraordinarily difficult, but highly rewarding cycles in the process. The first cycle, involving winning the honour of hosting the 2004 Games, brought all Greeks together under one umbrella and one cause. The second cycle of preparing for the Games has brought to Greece the infrastructure and know-how required to compete in the global economy and contribute to European and regional prosperity.
But above all, this decade-long effort would have not been successful if it were only an insular process involving our national pride, honour and economy. Success has hinged on the fact that Greeks never lost sight of the Olympic values that are inextricably linked to those of Hellenism. Hosting the Games has always meant not only bringing Greeks together, but above all, bringing the world together. It has meant never loosing faith in mankind and in all that we have in common. It has meant that the love and camaraderie the world sees shared today amongst the athletes of the Athens Olympic Village, will be the sentiments linking the habitants of the global village tomorrow.
This is precisely why these Olympic Games are so closely identified with the Olympic Truce movement, spearheaded by Greece, the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations. For this was the purpose of having the Games return to their birthplace: to reconnect with the principles and values associated with the Olympic movement. This is precisely why the international Olympic Torch Relay brought the sacred flame of the Games to all five continents: to spread the message of global peace and hope.
Indeed, this Olympiad is a very special one indeed. The Athens 2004 Olympic Games mean a great deal for Greece and every Greek man and woman, because above and beyond national identity and economics, these Games are a homecoming of the human spirit.
A homecoming of the spirit of the Ancient Games and the belief in man and his immense potential.
A homecoming of the spirit of Pierre de Coubertin, the modern Olympic movement and the belief in mankind, society and democracy.
A homecoming of the spirit of undying hope for tomorrow, for a better and more peaceful world for all our children.