It’s lonely at the top
A bright moment is a rare but welcome occurrence in a country going through the seventh year of a multifaceted crisis and whose residents are sick and tired of the repeated deadends they come up against. Greek pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships in London on Sunday night was one such moment. The country’s political leadership hastened to congratulate her, as is customary on such occasions, stressing it was a “success of Greek athletics,” as well as her own personal achievement. However, Stefanidi winning the gold medal had nothing to do with the quality of sports in Greece. Her achievement should, instead, have caused people to think and worry about the way that the state deals with ambitious athletes and, by extension, young Greeks that want to achieve things. If this great sportswoman represents something, it is crisis-era Greece, a country which sees its children head abroad because they hope to make a better life for themselves. Of course this does not apply just to sport, but in other walks of life as well. Stefanidi made a conscious decision to go to the US, where she studied and trained, because she knew that there she would find what is not on offer here, in her own country. In the US, she found the necessary conditions to help her fulfill her ambitions. It was there that she encountered the support and the encouragement she needed to attain her goal, which was to fly higher than all her competitors. She got to where she is with hard work and persistence amid excellent conditions, worthy of international athletics. In a cruel twist of fate, another pole vaulter who was carrying Greek hopes for a medal in London, Konstantinos Filippidis, wasn’t able to take part in the World Championships. The reason for his absence was that he was injured due to a lack of maintenance at the facilities he was using at the Olympic Stadium (OAKA) training center in Athens. As far as the training conditions for Greek athletes are concerned, it’s worth paying a visit to the so-called facilities they use, such as those in Aghios Cosmas in southern Athens. What you will see there can only cause despair. So let us not continue to cry crocodile tears for the young Greeks who choose to leave the country. If they really want it, and if they put everything into it, they will progress and achieve their goals. These are exactly the things that we do not ask of them here, where the norm is to get comfortable and bring standards down.