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Burnaby Family Shares the Olympic spirit

Jenny Siormanolakis, left front, and her family welcomed Greek athletes and team members to the family’s Burnaby restaurant recently.
Jenny Siormanolakis, left front, and her family welcomed Greek athletes and team members to the family’s Burnaby restaurant recently.

A little food, new friends and a healthy dose of homeland patriotism.
That was the recipe cooked up at a longtime Burnaby institution this month for a unique Olympic memory that won’t soon be forgotten. The Siormanolakis family, who opened Romana Restaurant in 1973 and are still serving up Greek and Italian dishes at the Heights-area establishment, opened their doors recently to some of their fellow countrymen – the entire Greek Olympic delegation to the 2010 Games.
Poppy and Eugene Siormanolakis first opened the restaurant in the early ’70s and still run the business with daughters Jenny and Nora. Jenny Siormanolakis explains that it was a twist of fate that put the proud Greek family in touch with the athletes and team in the first place.
“I was going to be a volunteer with the Greek delegation and had the chance to meet the secretary of the team a year ago,” she told the NOW.
Earlier this month, Jenny took part in helping to organize torch celebrations on Broadway in Vancouver and said that was in itself an emotional experience. “To feel like you’re welcoming the torch all the way from Olympia, yeah, that makes me get emotional,” she said with a laugh.
Though the plan to volunteer this month fell through, Jenny received an invitation from the delegation to join them for the welcoming celebration in the athlete’s village in Vancouver.
“So we went down to cheer on the Greek delegation. It was just great,” she said. In return, the family extended an invitation to the team to come out to the North Burnaby restaurant for dinner. “We hosted them for dinner, all 17 of them – it was pretty busy,” she said with a laugh.
When the group walked in, decked out in their blue and white team outfits, the other patrons in the restaurant gave them a standing ovation, complete with clapping and cheers.
“The athletes were just stunned at the welcome. It was wonderful,” she said.
“We mingled over wine and over pizzas, a friend of mine played guitar, and there were some speeches.”
Jenny said it was a heartfelt and emotional evening, getting to know the members of the group and sharing stories.
“One of them was from another city near where we’re from originally. That sort of thing, it’s just very heartwarming to share, and exciting,” she said.
The family already owned an Athens Olympic flag, which they purchased during the Games in Greece in 2004.
While taking part in the celebrations at the athlete’s village, Jenny decided to pick up one of the blue Vancouver 2010 Olympic flags for the restaurant too.
That came in handy when the idea came up during dinner to have the team sign a piece of memorabilia.

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