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Greece

This month

In this issue:

• Obama’s farewell trip to Athens • Katrougalos’ visit to London • Athens “Authentic” Marathon 2016 • Benaki’s Museum Photographic Archive travels to NYC • Athens Contemporary Art Museum “opens its doors” to Antwerp • Leonard Cohen and Greece

US President Barack Obama Visits Athens (15-16/11/2016) Barack Obama included Athens in his final foreign trip as President of the USA. “I was determined, on my last trip, to come to Greece,” Obama said during one of his speeches. “Partly because I’ve heard about the legendary hospitality of the Greek people, your philoxenia, partly because I had to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon.” The US president stressed that he will use his critical two-day visit to Athens to step up calls for the country to be given “meaningful debt relief ”, by underlying that while Athens needs to implement reforms, a nominal write-down would help reignite an economy that has lost over 25% of 1

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its output since the nation’s financial woes first surfaced seven years ago. “That is why I will continue to urge Greece’s creditors to take the steps needed to ensure the country is well placed to return to robust economic growth, including providing meaningful debt relief,” he said in his interview to the Greek Newspaper Kathimerini. “Getting that done would not only fuel the Greek economic recovery, but it would also show that Europe can make its economy work for everyone.” During his meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the Presidential Palace in Athens, the US president thanked his Greek counterpart and the Greek people on their hospitality and partnership. He reiterated the strong ties between the two countries, adding the need for a collaborative effort on the refugee crisis. He underlined his commitment to offering assistance to Greece on the economic crisis, adding, however, that more work lays ahead on the economic front in order for Greece to exit the current crisis. He also said that a strong NATO is of “utmost importance” and would provide “significant continuity even as we see a transition in government in the United States.” At a Press conference with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the outgoing US President praised the country for moving forward through a very challenging process. “My hope is that given the growth we saw this year, we can build on the process. The reforms have not been easy, but have been necessary to boost the competitiveness of the economy ... I will continue to emphasize on our view that austerity alone cannot deliver prosperity,” he said, adding that he would continue to stress to Greece’s European partners that austerity alone will not help the country emerge from crisis and that debt relief is necessary along with reforms. “It is going to be important both with respect to debt relief and other strategies to help Greek people in this period of adjustment,” he said. “It is a great honor that you are visiting Greece during your final European tour to give a special message to the world,” he told Obama. While referring to the economic crisis, he said that “despite the difficulties over the last five years, we’re standing strong” Mr Tsipras stated. Mr Obama congratulated also the Greek government, for spending more than the minimum goal on defense “even in difficult times.” He said for spending more than the minimum goal on defense “even in difficult times.” He said that if Greece can meet its NATO commitment, “all our allies should be able to do so.” During his trip, the US President got the chance to visit the temple of 2


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Parthenon and the New Acropolis Museum, where he was escorted by the president of the Museum, Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis. “One of the great joys of being the president is the ability to travel and see different cultures and meet different people. That’s important for our national security but it is also important for us to understand ourselves and our place in the world ... When you visit a site like this, not only are you getting a better understanding of Greece and Western culture, but you’re also sending a signal of the continuity that exists between what happened here, the speeches of Pericles, and what happened with our Founding Fathers.” Last but not least, Mr Obama delivered his official speech on Wednesday, November 16th, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. In his remarks, President Obama spoke about the importance of democracy, the ideals of philotimo and citizenship and the importance of supporting the youth as a means to development and progress. President Obama heralded Greece for its stance in the refugee crisis noting that “nowhere have we seen that compassion more evident than here in Greece. The Greek people’s generosity towards refugees arriving on your shores has inspired the world.” Speaking about the ideals of democracy President Obama noted “it was here, 25 centuries ago, in the rocky hills of this city, that a new idea emerged, Demokratia. Kratos, tthe power, the right to rule, comes from demos, the people. The notion that we are citizens,not servants, but stewards of our society. The concept of citizenship, that we have both rights and responsibilities. The belief in equality before the law, not just for a few, but for the many; not just for the majority, but also the minority. These are all concepts that grew out of this rocky soil.”

Alternate Foreign Minister G. Katrougalos Visits London (10-15 November 2016)

Alternate Foreign Minister, Mr Giorgos Katrougalos, visited London, from Thursday, 10 November, to Tuesday, 15 November, where he met with representatives of the British government and opposition, as well as with union representatives, and spoke at prominent British universities. More

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Katrougalos

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met with Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan, and the Minister of State at the Department fo Exiting the European Union (DExEU), David Jones. Mr. Katrougalos also met with the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, the Shadow Minister for International Trade, Bill Esterson, Shadow Minister of State Khalid Mahmood, and the General Secretaries of the UNITE and TUC unions. During his stay in London, Mr. Katrougalos spoke at a British-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce event on “Greece: An economic overview and investment opportunities,” referring to the positive prospects of the Greek economy and investments, and stressing that the government has moved ahead to very important structural reforms, with emphasis on sustainable development and social policies against austerity. He also underscored that Greece now offers many investment opportunities, not just due to its geopolitical position, but also because of the new economic policy that is evident in the official data showing improvement of financial indicators and the economic environment. Mr. Katrougalos was also the keynote speaker at a London School of Economics event on “Social or neoliberal Europe? The Greek experience,” at which he presented the Greek government’s major structural reforms, with emphasis on reform of the social security system. He also underscored the need to abandon the current austerity policies and reaffirm the EU’s dedication to the European social model. During his stay in the British capital, Mr. Katrougalos visited Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, while on the margins of his meetings he gave interviews to The Daily Telegraph and the BBC World Service. Mr. Katrougalos concluded his itinerary on Tuesday, in Oxford, where he spoke in the afternoon, at St Antony’s College, on “A Democratic Challenge: Social reform in Greece under Syriza.”

34th Athens “Authentic” Marathon (November 13, Athens) Because sport unites us all!!!

Writing about sport and education, the founder of modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, stressed that ‘the important thing in Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. Just in life, the aim is not to conquer but to struggle well’. In November and almost a century later, his quote could not have been more relevant than ever, 4


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since almost 50.000 people, of all age groups and nationalities, took part in two distinctive sport, cultural and tourism events in Athens. Both “Athens Midnight Music Run” concept, brought to Greece by London Midnight Runners movement, and “Athens authentic Marathon’’, organized by the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS) in cooperation with the municipalities of Athens and Marathon and the support of the Attica Regional Authority, truly demonstrated the strength of human determination, commitment and group effort,

The member of ‘Greece this Month’ team, Ms Ariana Rapti, who attended the event, gives us some hints of her own experience. Athens Midnight Music Run On Friday, November 11, an exciting music based work out took place in Athens, offering a unique opportunity not only for fun fitness but also an exploration of the city’s best night spots. With thousands of people from all over the word joining them so far in more than 200 running events, ‘Midnight Runners’ crew of qualified run leaders came all the way from London to introduce us to a night running movement. Inspired by a common vision, “London Midnight Runners” provided outdoor enjoyable and dynamic fitness, offering opportunities for active socializing, under the sparkling light of stars and streetlights, and the soundtrack of upbeat music. The recipe of a series of midnight runs, taking place at several places in central London and a number of after-run parties was followed with a great success by the event’s organizer Petros Boskos. More than 700 people spent their Friday evening running 10 km around Athens with loud music, working out along the way and attending an amusing post-run gathering. The meeting point of this free fitness event at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, offered a chance for discovering the newly built facilities, that on the day of the run hosted various sport and culture events, including a medal awards ceremony and a swing concert. Before starting, the two run leaders, speaking both in Greek and English, invited the participants for a family, commemorative picture, followed by a pre-exercise warm up under the sounds of Greek and international pop music. 5

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And while running comfortably the distance of 10 km required a pace of approximately 4:00 to 5:45 min/km, the run included five breaks for body weight exercises, which took place close to central underground stations, enabling participants to rest or even withdraw from the race, if needed. Moreover, the leaders had been truly supportive during the run, coordinating the team, orienting, motivating and checking on all the participants. That constant mobility of both crew and runners encouraged a dynamic socializing of people from different cultural backgrounds and age groups. Exchanging information about landmarks of the route, such as the Greek Parliament, Theater of Herodes Atticus, and the Acropolis, the participants turned the event into an alternative city night tour, which culminated into a night-long after party at Booze Cooperativa bar. But still this was not a goodbye; most of the runners, who considered Friday’s run as a warm up before the biggest running event in Athens, renewed their appointment for Sunday morning. Athens Marathon, the Authentic Αs on every 2nd Sunday of November, one of the most popular athletic and cultural events worldwide took place in Athens. Nevertheless, this years’ 34th Athens Marathon has been of particular historic significance, marking 120 years since the first Marathon race, inspired by Pheidippides, the legendary hemerodromos, who brought Athenians the news of victory, after the Battle of Marathon. In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games took place, with athletes from five countries setting off from the starting line on the bridge of Marathon, towards the Panathenaic Stadium, and the Greek Spyros Louis winning the race, becoming a symbol of willpower for the generations to come. In that euphoric atmosphere thousands of spectators enjoyed the Marathon Flame Lighting Ceremony on November 12th, when a flame torch relay from the Marathon Tomb to the Marathon start point, having the opportunity to get to know the history of one of the few municipalities of Attica that combine the blue sea and the green of the mountains. Among all the runners that had the unique chance of exploring this naturally beautiful route, through the 42 km Marathon Race and Power Walking, the Kenyan Luka Rotis Loumpouan who won the race with the 15th fastest time in history, as well as the first Greek to cross the finish line, Christopher Merousis, could stand out for their physical and mental stamina. Of course, apart from this quite challenging race, Athens classical marathon featured a 5 km and a 10 km run. Both races ended at Panathenaic Stadium, a venue well known for promoting values of noble competition since Antiquity, through pan-Hellenic and international games, and where the 34th Athens Marathon Medal Awards Ceremony was hosted. Praiseworthy could also be the organization of this year’s special race for kids and the Special Olympics race, where the participation at the “Kids Race National Bank of Greece” 6


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reached its limit. Regarding the 1.2 km Special Olympics race, approximately 500 Special Olympics Hellas athletes, special abilities students and their coaches, as well as qualified volunteers and unified partners, run together in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and harmonious coexistence, promoting and spreading the message that “Sport Unites Us All”. In that spirit of solidarity and social responsibility, this year’s Athens Marathon Charity and Social Liability Program involved a number of non-governmental organizations, including ActionAid, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, among others, aiming at creating awareness among both the spectators and the runners. Moreover, following last year’s celebration of the 10 years of Athens Marathons’ Environmental Program, during the 34th Athens Marathon, clothing collection and voluntary recycling programs took place, as a means of dealing with the humanitarian crisis. Decisive role in the smooth running of this sports event played its excellent planning, with all race routes and parallel street lanes being free of traffic, as well as the innovative support of technology, since an amazing mobile application, powered by MyLaps, provided course map and live tracking services. Last but not least, the commitment of an active base of more than 2,600 volunteers proved more than valuable, offering high quality services, both during the preparation of the event, as well as on the day of the race, with athletes’ testimonials revealing how they managed to make it to the end thanks to the encouraging words of the volunteers. Overall, the values of athletic spirit, noble competition, environmental sensitivity, solidarity and unity of all people that distinguished both running events, could be best summarized under the description of Athens Authentic Marathon, by the President of the Hellenic Athletics Federation, Mr Panagopoulos, as “a bridge that unifies the legend with history”, enabling a colorful river of humanity to flow through the Athenian streets; for this year and the ones to come.

‘The Olympic Games 1896 Photographic Album of Albert Meyer’ travels from Athens to New York The Benaki Museum is launching its first crowdfunding campaign on the occasion of the exhibition in America of the photographic album of Albert Mayer from the first modern Olympic Games of Athens in 1896. The exhibition kicks off in New York City in December 2016, with events at both the United Nations and the Consulate General of Greece in NY. The campaign’s goal is to raise $100,000 which will allow the album to continue its 2017 tour in at least four additional US cities. 7

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The exhibition takes visitors back to the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, the first Olympic Games of the modern era, giving life through digital technology and to the historic photos from the album of photographer Albert Meyer kept at the Benaki Museum’s Historical Archives, featuring, among others, Spyros Louis, wearing his pure-white cotton-kilt (the Greek “fustanella”), after having won the Marathon Race. The curator Eva Nathena and her associates showcase their exceptional photographic material in order to recapture the historical moments in a unique way. “The documentation of the first Olympic Games in the modern era symbolizes the restoration of the Olympic athletic ideals. Visitors will get a chance to come across such unique material and explore the values showcased and their importance in the shaping of modern European thought’’, Mrs Nathena stated. Olympic memorabilia collectors and friends of the Benaki Museum have shown great interest in the exhibition. The campaign will run until the end of January 2017. US donors will receive a tax-deductible receipt and a special gift from the Benaki Museum.

“Urgent Conversations: Athens-Antwerp” in the National Museum Of Contemporary Art in Athens The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) has finally opened its doors on October 31 at the site of the former Fix brewery, with the inauguration of the “Urgent Conversations: Athens-Antwerp” exhibition. The exhibition, a co-production between EMST and the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art, is scheduled to run through January 29, 2017, and is essentially restarting the temporary exhibition activities of the Museum, which had been suspended in 2015 due to the relocation at its permanent home and due to the activities that were taking place for the operation and receipt of the new building. The exhibition involves a theoretical and visual dialogue, based on works from the collections of the two Museums and includes 70 projects from 66 artists in 22 subjects selected from the permanent collections of both institutions. It supports the belief of both museums that works of art shall constantly issue new meanings, open questions 8


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and initiate cultural dialogues which after all it is the basic ground of human culture. Described by the press release as the product of the “necessity of cultural dialogue on a global scale, also within multifaceted Europe,” the exhibition pairs the works of primarily Greek and Belgian artists in an aim to ask the question, “How can we live together?” “[Contemporary art] is not about solutions, about finished things,” said de Baere, director of the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art” in Belgium. “It’s more about a table where we can continue to reflect.” In April 2017, the exhibition will travel to Belgium on a smaller scale. URL: http://www.emst.gr/en/urgent-conversations-athens-antwerp/

Τhe special bond of Leonard Cohen with Greece

“My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records,” Cohen’s son Adam wrote in Rolling Stone magazine, following the announcement of his father’s death, on 11 November 2016, aged 82. Tributes were led by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, stating that “Leonard Cohen is as relevant today as he was in the 1960’s. His ability to conjure the vast array of human emotion made him one of the most influential and enduring musicians ever. His style transcended the vagaries of fashion. His music had withstood the test of time.’’ Undoubtedly, his lyrics were written with such grace and emotional depth that his songwriting was regarded as on the same level as that of Bob Dylan and along with Dylan, he was considered the most poetic and enigmatic lyricist of his era. Dylan explained why he found Cohen’s songs so powerful: “His gift, or genius, is in his connection to the music of the spheres, “Hallelujah’’ has resonance for me. There again, it’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves and slips back, all in quick time.’’ The subject of his songs over a career that spanned half a century was the human condition, which inevitably led him into some dark places. He suffered bouts of depression in his own life and his mournful voice and the fatalism of his lyrics led his songs to be adopted by the anguished, lovelorn and angst-ridden as a personal liturgy. It is impossible to overstate the influence of his early records. Any party in the late ‘60s featured a moon-eyed hippy with a gut-stringed guitar playing 9

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his stately mesmerizing tracks that were hard to master since their rich Mediterranean flavours sometimes required complex finger picking. It was difficult for critics to explain exactly what made Cohen’s music so memorable and moving. A restless spirit, Cohen started as a writer and poet and travelled a lot. He had special ties with Greece and especially Hydra. He moved to Hydra in 27 September of 1960, six days after his 26th birthday, in search of a new way of living, detached from the rhythms and customs of the urban lifestyle of the west. He was quick to appreciate life on the island of Hydra and in a certain way got Hellenized. Locals who’ve met Cohen refer to him as Λεονάρδο [Leonardo] and say that he found mental relief to the Mediterranean sun, in the white facades of the houses, in the view of the sea, in his meetings with ordinary people and the ‘’primitive life’’ of the island that had remained unchanged since the Middle Ages. There he began to crystallize the wisdom of some of his best poetry, writing and songs. What fascinated him most was that there was neither electricity nor running water, no facilities. Besides, when the electrification of the island happened with the cables started making whole aerial networks over his head, he inspired the song «Bird on a wire». For the songwriter, the decade of Hydra was one of the most productive since it gave him peace of mind away from “civilization” and the chance to listen to himself and his needs, writing books and music. The owner of the tavern, Douskos Stavros, recalls serving him cooked food. “He ate cooked food, spoke some Greek and liked to sit with the locals and learn stories, bringing along his guitar and played.’’ They say that he was a very sweet and friendly guy. In fact while living on the island he wrote ‘’The Favourite Game’’ (1963) and “Beautiful Losers’’ (1966). It was there that he met Marianne Jensen, his partner for most of the 1960s and the inspiration behind his debut album “So Long, Marianne’’. She passed away this summer at the age of 81. They met on the island where she had gone with her son from her first husband and they became a couple. Before he died, Cohen sent her a very touching letter telling her that he would soon follow her and that he is so close to her that if she stretches her hand she would touch him. Together they experienced the good sides of the Greek lifestyle, the sunsets, friends, reading, creativity. The islanders of Hydra in Greece paid their own respects to the man they knew as a ‘Leonardos’. At the stone house that Cohen bought decades ago in the heart of 10


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Hydra’s port capital, neighbours and friends came to reminisce and leave small offerings on the doorstep. “Mr Leonardos would hang out in my father’s garden and my mother would bring him mountain herbs, olive oil and fish,” said 53-year-old sailor Yiannis Armadouros, who lives just across the winding cobbled street from Cohen’s house. “He was a lovely man, the entire island adored him,” he added, noting how at ease the musician-poet was in the company of simple fishermen and port workers. Generally, he was very popular in Greece, even though he only played once in Athens. Hydra and Mary were both muses for Cohen and as long as they coexisted they filled him with energy and optimism. He also lived moments of happiness on the island with his later wife, Susan, who became the mother of two children, Adam and Lorca Cohen. They took from their father the love for Greece and they often make visits especially in the summer. As for Marianne’s house, now belongs to painter John Kotti. Greece and not only Hydra, “gave birth” to Leonard Cohen’s another love: the bouzouki. It seems that he loved it through the influence of Hydriote Thanasis, tricycle driver, that played bouzouki, guitar and was singing, according to the book ‘’Hydra and the Bananas of Leonard Cohen’’ by Roger Green.

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Greece this Month November 2016