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Greek Olympian Opens Pandora’s Box with Rape Allegations Against Federation

Greek women athletes speak out about sexual harassment by members of sports federations

Greek Olympian Sofia Bekatorou
Greek Olympian Sofia Bekatorou

Greek Olympian Sofia Bekatorou opened Pandora’s Box with her rape allegations against the Vice-President of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (EIO) as more athletes spoke out about sexual harassment.

The news came as a shock, as Bekatorou’s allegations brought to the surface a taboo issue that plagues not only the sports world but Greek society in general.

As more women athletes came forward and spoke out about being victims of sexual harassment in the past, politicians stepped forward promising to tackle the issue that goes beyond the sports world.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis posted a long, heartfelt message about the bold step Bekatorou took, saying that this is a social problem that needs to be resolved by the state.

Another Greek Olympian speaks out

Niki Bakoyiannis, the high jumper who won the silver medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics,  came forward and spoke about her sexual harassment experience.

She can forward to speak about her experience the day after athletes Mania Bikov and Rabea Iatridou spoke about their horrid experience in the world of sports.

Speaking to sports3.gr, she said that she was not sexually abused but she received an open indecent proposal from a now deceased top member of the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS) when she was 29.

“It was not sexual abuse. It was sexual harassment”, she said, adding that the person was 50 years older than her, and that was another reason she was shocked.

“He asked me to go for a coffee and talk about sports…I didn’t understand until later that he had other things in mind,” Bakoyiannis said, adding that she asked for a  fellow athlete to come and get her out of the uncomfortable situation.

Sailing champion speaks out, too

Greek sailing champion Marina Psychogyiou is another woman who broke her silence and spoke out about her horrid experience with a member of the sailing federation.

In describing her experience on Facebook, she put the scourge of sexual predators in sports in one simple phrase:

“The perpetrators continue unabated, and if one woman does not give in, or stops giving in, they move on to the next.”

“In the spring of 1993 I was 20 years old. I had just won the national / qualifying round and I begged the federation to include me in the national team,” Psychogyiou wrote.

After a meeting with members of EIO on the issue, the athlete wrote, she was approached by a member of the federation who was “my grandfathers age” who offered to give her a ride in his car.

“He told me that in order to achieve my goal, there must be someone in EIO who will fight for me, and that he is willing to take the role, if I am a good girl,” the athlete wrote.

With a lot of kind words and flattery, he made his move He grabbed my leg, came very close to me, told me not to be afraid, what is to be done will be for my own good…Then he tried to kiss me,” she wrote.

Pshychogyiou concluded that her post does not ask for the punishment of the predators but for the the creation of “a safer environment for everyone in society, and eliminate “the conditions for such situations.”

Deputy Sports Minister pledges reforms in federations

The issue of sexual harassment by members of sports federations is addressed in the new reforms on sports law, Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis told news247.gr news website.

“We will take the issue to the limit, not only in the case of Sofia Bekatorou and those who speak out, but to all issues related to the sports reform,” the minister said.

“A big, healthy part of non-professional sports athletes deserve this, and expect this. We are on the majority side, not with the few,” Avgenakis said, referring to sports federation members who stay in office permanently.   

“We are not with those who react and make a lot of noise because they are about to lose their offices…The reforms will create a better environment for our next generation of athletes.”

The Hellenic Sailing Federation response that annoyed many

The initial response of the Hellenic Sailing Federation to Bekatorou’s allegations infuriated athletes and a part of Greek society.

The fact that the EIO board official response called Bekatorou’s reported rape “an unpleasant incident” was perceived as an effort to sweep a crime under the rug.

At the same time the response shows the arrogance of people who hold their seats for decades, are well-paid, enjoy a high social status and think that they are beyond the law.

Even the women of the board reacted to Bekatorou’s allegations as if they were insignificant. Only Yiannis Papadimitriou, Manager of National Teams, resigned after Bekatorou’s complaint.


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