Tag Archives: Olympic Stadium

First Marathon cup goes on sale

Greece might not have ended on e-bay but the silver cup that was awarded to Spiros Louis, the winner of Marathon at the first modern Olympics (Athens 1896) is one the box, at Christie’s.

The silver cup of Spiros Louis, the first Olympic Marathon winner (Athens, 1896)

The grandson of the legendary runner, also called Spiros Louis, decided to sell the precious artifact inherited by his grandfather. According to an interview he gave to Ta Nea newspaper, he originally tried to sell the cup to the Greek state. At the beginning it was the former Mayor of modern day city of Marathon who was interested to buy the cup in order to exhibit it in the municipality’s museum. Then, there was interest by the Hellenic Association of Amateur Athletics (SEGAS) and by Kostas Panagopoulos of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympics. Spiros Louis also tried to contact the Minister of Culture but there was no result. Greece managed to host one of the most expensive Olympiads in the history of the modern Games but there was no money to keep this artifact in Greece.

According to Christie’s, the silver cup is estimated to realise between £120,000 and £160,000. Funnily, Spiros Louis said that he originally tried to sell the family’s artifact to the Greek state at a much lower price.

The news about the cup going on the box caused many reactions. Like that one of George Patoulis, Mayor of Athens’ Marousi district where the main Olympic Sports Complex is. The legendary runner, you see, was born in Marousi and the current Olympic Sports Complex is named after him. “We are emotionally attached to Spiros Louis. As soon as we learned about the auction we were mobilized. I personally send letters to friends who are businessmen in London in order to open an account so that we buy the Cup” said Patoulis.

Spiros Louis photographed by Albert Meyer, the official photographer of the Athens 1896 Olympiad

As for who is going to pay for it so that Patoulis celebrates the return of the cup to its home, no one knows. And even if this idea is realized another question will remain. Why did we have to pay a higher price, including the commission of Christie’s, in order to keep this artifact in Greece?

Panem et circenses

In the case of politics, the Latin phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses) is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.

The economic crisis in Greece offers a great opportunity for politicians to demonstrate the ancient Roman wisdom but, alas, after having cut down the bread they now tamper with the circuses too.

Last Saturday, during the football match between Panathinaikos and Ergotelis at the Athens Olympic Stadium, a handful of Panathinaikos fans raised the banner in the photo on which they wrote “Politicians you are crooks, comfortably seated in the Parliament, the rebels’ wrath will drown you”. Forgive my hurried translation but it actually rhymes in Greek. Anyway, the referee decided to stop the game after the fourth referee noticed the banner, with the excuse of UEFA regulation that forbids banners with political messages. They called the fans to take it down but the fans denied.

The funny thing was that the banner annoyed the authorities so much that, after the match, policemen conducted checks in several fans’ cars and managed to find and arrest the owners of the sinful piece of cloth. Now, this would sound perfectly normal in a functioning European country but in the Greek bananaland the authorities haven’t showed an equal sensitivity when hooligans were breaking the stadium’s seats, were setting small fires in the stands or when, a couple of years ago, a fan threw a dangerous firework that amputated the finger of a security guard at the Olympic Stadium.