Tokyo Olympics: Greece Breezes Through Water Polo Semi-Finals

Greece Water Polo
The Greek water polo team against Montenegro on Wednesday. Credit: Hellenic Olympic Committee / Twitter

Greece beat Montenegro on Wednesday and qualified for the semi-finals of the water polo tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Greek squad crushed the Balkan nation with a score of 10-4, after an amazing performance in the pool.

This is the first time the Greek water polo team qualifies for the semi-finals after the 2004 Olympic Games of Athens.

During the first quarter of the game, both teams played defensively, with the only goal being achieved by Greece’s Constantinos Genidounias.

However, in the next three quarters, Greece showed brilliant team spirit and managed to score nine more goals, while the players of Montenegro only scored four times in total.

Greece’s next game for the semi-finals will be with the winner of the game between Hungary and Croatia, which will begin at 1:40 PM EEST (Athens time) on Wednesday.

The game for the semi-finals will start at 09:30 AM EEST on Friday.

Greece crushed the US to qualify for quartet-finals

In order to play with Montenegro, Greece had to overcome the difficult obstacle of the team of the United States on Monday, something that they did surprisingly easily.

The Greek team crushed the United States on Monday with a score of 14-5, finishing first in Group A for the Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

The national water polo squad of Greece showed a brilliant performance making what should have been a tougher game, a piece of cake for the Greek athletes.

The Greek team showed its teeth from the very beginning when Dimitris Skoumpakis scored against the Americans only a few seconds into the game.

After an easy win during the first quarter, the Greeks showed discipline and determination leaving the game at 6-3 for halftime.

During the second half, Greece scored eight more goals, with the Americans managing to break the Greek defense only twice.

With a total of four wins and one draw (against Italy), Greece qualified first in Group A, leaving world champion Italy, Hungary, and the US behind.

The history of Greece’s Water Polo Team

Greece has a long and successful tradition of strong presence at an international level in water polo tournaments.

The country’s major successes are the two bronze medals that Greece won at the World Championship in 2005 and 2015.

The Greeks have also won a silver medal at the World Cup in 1997, three bronze medals at the World League in 2004, 2006, and 2016, as well as one silver in 2018.

Additionally, the Greek team has won four more bronze medals in the past: In 1951, 1991, 1993, and 2013 at the Mediterranean Games.

Greece closely missed a medal in the 2016 European Championship, the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2003 World Championship, and the 1999 European Championship, ending up in 4th place in all four of them.

Greece is one of only nine national teams in the world to have won (at least) a medal in the World Championship, currently occupying eighth place on the medal table, one above Germany.

The country has qualified at least for the quarter-finals in all their World Championship participations since 1994, winning the two aforementioned bronze medals and never finishing below 6th place from 2001 until now.

Greece has participated 16 times at the Olympic Games, always present in the tournament since 1980.

Their best result is 4th place at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, after losing 5–6 to Russia in the bronze medal game. The Greeks have secured a quarter-finals’ presence on six occasions.

The current Olympic team of Greece includes the following players: Emmanuel Zerdevas, Constantinos Genidounias, Dimitrios Skoumpakis, Marios Kapotsis, Ioannis Fountoulis, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Georgios Dervisis, Stylianos Argyropoulos Kanakakis, Constantinos Mourikis, Christodoulos Kolomvos, Constantinos Gkiouvetsis, and Angelos Vlachopoulos.

Greek sailing duet ranks 8th

The team of Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis finished eighth on Wednesday after a tough race for the medals.

After 13 years of sailing, Mantis and Kagialis will stop competing in the 470 men’s category, since today was their last appearance as a team.

From the next Olympic Games, in Paris, the teams will have to be mixed, so Kagialis and Mantis will have to have a female teammate.

The gold medal in today’s race was won by Australia’s Mathew Belcher and William Ryan.

The silver medal was won by the team of Sweden and the bronze went to Spain.

Greece on Fire: Huge Wildfires Leave Ruins and Devastation Behind

Greece Fires
Greece dealt with a total of 81 different wildfires on Tuesday. Credit: Apostolos Makris/Greek Reporter

Tuesday was one of the worst days of this summer in terms of fires in Greece, with massive wildfires raging in Varympompi, Athens, on the islands of Evia and Kos, as well as near Evzones at the border of Greece with North Macedonia.

A total of 81 fires broke out in Greece on Tuesday, making it one of the worst days in recent years. Between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, 41 more fires broke out across the nation, the Greek government stated.

The extremely high temperatures that have been prevailing in Greece for days along with locally strong winds have caused a dangerous cocktail of hot and dry conditions that enable the spread of fires.

Massive blaze burns homes in Varympompi, Attica

Greece Fires
The fires have been ravaging homes throughout the country. Credit: Apostolos Makris/Greek Reporter

A huge fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon in Varympompi, a northern suburb of Athens. Houses in the area, as well as in the nearby neighborhood of Adames, have now burned down from the blaze, which kept burning all night long.

All residents in areas threatened by the strong fire have been evacuated, including the settlements in Varympompi, Adames, Thrakomakedones, and the Olympic Village.

According to an official briefing that was held at the headquarters of the Civil Protection Secretariat in Athens late last night, 520 firefighters, 17 terrain teams, 150 fire trucks nine helicopters, and seven aircraft were battling the blaze in Athens.

A total of 76 homes were seriously damaged by the fire in Varympompi, Deputy Civil Protection and Crises Management Minister Nikos Hardalias said during an urgent briefing held at the Civil Protection premises named “Pharos”.

Giving an initial estimate of the damage, Hardalias said that 1250 hectares have been burnt, 76 houses and 27 businesses have sustained serious damage, while 18 houses were partially damaged. “Our first priority is human life. Human life is over and above anything else,” Hardalias said.

Hardalias had already said on Tuesday night that this fire began at 1:25 PM in Ano Varympompi, on Mount Parnitha, when the prevailing heatwave conditions created a situation where temperatures of 45 degrees Celcius, the humidity of under 10 percent, and midday winds with a velocity of 6 on the Beaufort scale caused the tragedy.

The Greek National Highway, which runs from Athens to Lamia, has been closed due to the flames, and all train services between Athens and Thessaloniki have also been canceled.

The Greek Fire Brigade was assisted by the Greek army, and the police – including 305 policemen and 3 riot police teams. Hundreds of volunteers and employees in the local authorities of the area also assisted.

A total of 315 people were transferred by the Greek police to safe ground.

Evacuees of Varympompi who have lost homes may call the National Public Health Organization (EODY) at 1135 to be put up at hotels, at the expense of the state.

Wildfires Rage on northern Evia island

The second biggest blaze that kept raging on Tuesday was the front on the island of Evia (Euboea), northeast of Athens.

Many communities in the northwest part of the island, including Retsinolakkos, Kourkoulou, Sipiada, Chronia, Dremonas, Skepasti, and Kokinni were ordered to evacuate their homes for precautionary reasons. Additionally, people from the coastal village of Mourtias also had to leave their properties and find refuge somewhere else.

The fire was raging for hours on Tuesday evening and into the night dangerously close to the town of Limni where many summer camps have their premises.

Limni is the main settlement of the region.

Firefighting forces from elsewhere on Evia and as well as from neighboring regions in central Greece headed to the island to assist.

According to local media reports, the fire was so big, that it managed to cross several roads and highways and finally reach the coast, where it ultimately stopped!

In between, homes, properties, tourist premises, and businesses alike were burned down completely, leaving ruins and destruction in one of the most beautiful parts of the island.

There is no official statement on the magnitude of the catastrophe, but a total of 150 hotel beds were used last night to accommodate people who needed to flee their homes, something that gives us an approximate number of the people who have been affected.

Fire on Kos island

Another major fire broke out on the popular tourist destination of Kos, an island in the Eastern Aegean Sea.

The wildfire affected large forest areas on the island close to the ancient Asclepeion area. Fortunately enough, the fire was soon contained.

The firefighting forces of the island operated in collaboration with the municipal authority of Kos as well as volunteers.

A helicopter from Rhodes also helped in battling the blaze.

Firefighting forces stayed on high alert throughout the night to prevent the rekindling of fire pockets, the deputy mayor of the island Stamatis Kampourakis told the state-run AMNA news agency.

Fire on the border between Greece and North Macedonia

Another large blaze that burned down a large area was the one that broke out near the border of Greece with North Macedonia.

The fire broke out in the area between the towns of Evzones and Idomeni, the two border crossings between Greece and North Macedonia. Fortunately, no properties were burned.

The fire brigade of the area of Kilkis managed to contain the damage and put out the fire completely.

The traffic towards the customs office at Evzones has now been restored. Traffic on the Athens-Evzones national highway, as well as on the old national highway between Thessaloniki and Evzones is now back to normal.

PM Mitsotakis holds emergency meeting in Athens

Greece fire
Tens of cars were completely destroyed. Credit: Odysseas Karadis / Greek Reporter

An emergency meeting was held early in the morning of Wednesday in Athens to assess the situation in Varympompi and elsewhere.

The meeting was held in the mobile coordination center named ”Olympos” near the site of the fire in Varympompi.

“A big thank you to the women and men of the fire brigade. They did very important work throughout the night, especially those in the ground teams,” PM Mitsotakis said after the meeting.
”We were up against an extremely difficult fire in conditions of extremely hot weather. The most nightmarish fires are those that occur in forests around urban areas. I hold on to the fact that, thank God, we have not until now had any losses of human life as positive and that the evacuation system worked in an exemplary fashion. Our critical infrastructure has held up,” Mitsotakis added.

Ancient Olympic site threatened by the fire

Authorities have now ordered villages in western Peloponnese near the original site of the ancient Olympic Games to evacuate as the fires have spread to their area and threatened the region. A dozen villages were left behind near the historical site as 160 firefighters and a water bombing airplane worked to save the site from destruction.

High temperatures and forceful winds have strengthened the fires and allowed them to multiply: there are now a total of 150 wildfires across Greece.

“We’re doing our best to save this sacred place,” said mayor Panagiotis Antonakopoulos,  “After human lives our priority is to save our history.”

The site is where the Olympic flame is first lit before traveling to the host city of the Olympics.

French President Macron Takes to TikTok to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy

French President Vaccine
French President Emmanuel Macron took to the medium of Tik Tok in an effort to reach people who are still hesitant to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Remi Jouan/CC-BY-SA

French President Emmanuel Macron took to TikTok and Instagram in a renewed effort to try to persuade those who are still hesitant about receiving the coronavirus vaccine to finally get the inoculation.

His media push was also meant to counter misinformation about vaccines following the third straight weekend of demonstrations about a controversial coronavirus health pass in the nation which has proven have a surprisingly large number of people who are hesitant regarding Covid-19 vaccines.

Macron, who is nearly always portrayed in his businesslike dark suit and tie, donned a black t-shirt for a short video, which was filmed at the Presidential vacation home at Fort Brégançon in southern France, in front of a French flag.

He repeated his ongoing theme that vaccines were the “only weapon” that could stop the fourth wave of coronavirus, which is currently sweeping its way across the world.

French President touts vaccine, urges citizens to ask questions of him

“Some of you have been hearing false rumours, some of it rubbish, it has to be said,” Macron stated in the selfie-style video; he then urged all vaccine-hesitant people to address their questions and concerns directly to him.

Macron made the direct appeal to the people of France after many months of continued resistance to the vaccine rollout in the country, with an estimated 200,000 people protesting against the recent measures across the country last Saturday.

Last month that citizens would have to produce proof of either vaccination, or a negative Covid test or their recent recovery from Covid to be allowed to enter most museums, cinemas and sports venues.

That prompted an estimated one million French people to instantly make vaccine appointments but caused others to rise up in indignation. The protests on Saturday were the largest yet since Macron’s blanket announcement.

The stringent rules will be extended to all bars, restaurants, long-distance trains and shopping centers across the country as of Monday, August 9.

Macron asked if vaccine contains 5G chip

Those who are still opposed to both the mandate and the vaccine are calling the French president the head of a health “dictatorship”, maintaining that the new measures impinge on their freedom of choice.

Just as many French citizens demonstrated in the “yellow vest” anti-government protests during 2018-2019, tens of thousands have now have staged new protests — some of which have become violent.

The French president is up for reelection next year. As of now, Macron stated that  “a little more than 35 million” French people are now fullly vaccinated in a nation of a little over 67 million.

The Élysée Palace told Agence France Presse that the head of state would “take questions and answer by video regularly this week.”

Among the first questions visible on Instagram Monday, was that of one citizen, who asked “What is the point of being vaccinated while in some regions wearing a mask has become mandatory outside?”

Another wanted to know “How can you prove that the vaccine minimizes severe forms of the disease?” and yet another person asked bluntly “What is it in this vaccine?”

“Is it true that there is a 5G chip in it?” another French citizen asked, while others were worried that taking the inoculation would reduce their lifespan.

Another person asked “Is it a president or a lobbyist who speaks!?”

“Possible” to achieve herd immunity “in early Fall”

The chairman of France’s orientation council of the vaccine strategy, Alain Fischer, considered that it was “possible” to achieve herd, or collective, immunity, with 90% of the population vaccinated at “the beginning of Autumn.”

As of August 2, 42.6 million people in France have received at least one injection (63.2% of the total population) and more than 52.6% of the total population now are completely vaccinated, according to figures released on Monday by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health.

Hospitals in France have stated that as of Monday there were 7,840 new Covid patients, representing an increase of 761 over the previous week, including 1,232 who are now in critical care services compared to the 952 who were in ICUs as of last Monday).

However, the officials also noted that the progression of the epidemic seems to be slowing down, suggesting a “plateau” might occur during the month of August.

British Author’s Love Letter to Greek Island of Zakynthos

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Navagio Beach, Zakynthos. Credit: Alex Ignatiou/Wikimedia/ Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Greek island of Zakynthos, located south of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, is yet another idyllic Greek island offering rich history, cultural treasures, along with beaches galore, for summertime travelers who need their fix of sun and sand.

It was all these things and more which first drew the British author Chrissie Parker to the island and prompted her to move there. This is her overview of the island, which she used as a setting for her newest book.

By Chrissie Parker

Often known as the “Fiore di Levante,” or Flower of the East, Zakynthos (called Zante by the British), is a popular island for travelers to Greece, packed with tourist resorts and popular sights, and full of history, culture, and tradition.

My first visit to Zakynthos opened up a world of possibilities. It’s a wonderful island with so much to see and do. A place where everyone’s welcome. Where tourists return year after; to somewhere they think of as their second home.

It’s an island rich with stunning scenery and beaches, interesting history and culture that will leave visitors wanting more. Anyone who visits Zakynthos for the first time will discover a beautiful, welcoming island that creeps into their hearts, leaving them with a lifetime of happy memories, making them want to return again and again.

As well as the more famous sights of Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach, the Blue Caves and Cameo Island, there’s a wealth of things to see and do, and the island is easy to navigate and explore.

Off the beaten track, there are old villages, tumbledown buildings, and hidden history, just
waiting to be discovered. Each one gives visitors a flavour of traditional Greek life both past
and present.

The history of the island dates back centuries. There’s even evidence of life as far back as
prehistoric times. It’s been ruled over by many, including the Romans, Crusaders,
Venetians, French and British.

Heroic islanders saved entire Jewish population in WWII

Tantalizing glimpses of this fractured, fascinating past can still be found today. Zakynthos also survived the horrors of the Second World War. It was the only place in Greece to save its entire Jewish populace from the internment camps, making heroes of the local mayor and bishop at the time.

The island was also hit by the Great Ionian Earthquake in 1953.Zakynthos Town suffered the most damage, leaving only a few buildings standing.

Despite the great hardship, determined Zakynthians rebuilt and the island is now a favorite holiday destination for international tourists, who flock to it every year to enjoy their favorite slice of paradise.

For those who love history, Zakynthos has many sights, including the old Argasi bridge, now abandoned to the sea, and Strani Hill – where the Greek national anthem was written.

For those who like the architecture of the Venetian era, there’s Bochali castle, an old stone water viaduct, old wells and many coastal watchtowers dating back to the period. The island also has an old English Cemetery and a Jewish one as well.

As with any Greek islands, there is a multitude of monasteries and churches, both those in ruins and those that are still open for worship — the most famous being St. Dionysios in Zakynthos Town which holds the relics of the Saint himself.

Beaches, resorts, architecture of idyllic Zakynthos a perennial draw for travelers

Zakynthos
Chrissy Parker is the British author of Among the Olive Groves, a paean to her love of the idyllic Greek island. Courtesy Chrissy Parker.

Nowadays, the island caters mainly to the tourist trade and there are nine resorts scattered
throughout. It’s an incredible island to explore. The National Marine Park in Laganas Bay is
home to endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Monachus Monachus (Mediterranean
Monk seal), which can also be found in Keri.

Thirteen museums tell the varied history of the island, and you can learn about the wildlife, flora and fauna of the island as well. There are old traditional villages with ancient, twisted olive trees telling the story of their long lives.

Beautiful sweeping beaches hug crystal-clear turquoise-colored seas and the rugged coastline hides caves and inlets perfect for exploring by boat. They’re also a haven for swimmers, snorkelers and divers.

The beaches are numerous, and the sea is clear and blue. As well as the most famous beach of Navagio, also known as Shipwreck Beach, there’s a great mix of sand and pebbled beaches on the island. The main beaches are in tourist resorts. There are long, sweeping sandy beaches in Alykes, Alykanas, Kalamaki, Laganas, and Tsilivi.

In Laganas Bay, there are also the popular Daphni and Gerakas Beaches as well as the smaller strands of Limni Keri, Agios Sostis and the pebble beaches of Kaminia and Porto Koukla.

Most Laganas Bay beaches are used by turtles for nesting and they are subject to restrictions in the summer months.

On the Vasilikos Peninsula, the two largest beaches are Banana Beach and the watersports beach St. Nickolas, where you can kayak, jet ski, or water ski. Along the Valilikos peninsula are other, smaller beaches such as Port Roma, Plaka, Porto Azzuro and Porto Kamina.

Close to Zakynthos Town the tourist resort of Argasi has a small strip of beach, catering the to the resort’s customers, which even has an ancient stone bridge standing in the middle of it!

Krioneri Beach is just north of Zakynthos Town, where there are play parks and tennis courts and in the summer months, an open-air cinema. The west coast of the island is dotted through with many other beaches, including Donkey Beach, Ampouila, Psarou, Makris Gialos, Agios Nickolas just to name a few.

Two Xigia Beaches are located next to each other. The second Xigia has a smaller beach but is known for its healing properties and sulphur springs. The newest beach on Zakynthos was formed by the Mizithres Rocks at Keri during an earthquake in 2018.

It’s affectionately known as Agios Dimitrios Beach, as the quake occurred on the saint’s feast day.

Tavernas are plentiful and the atmosphere is relaxing and sociable, making it perfect for couples, families, and friends.

Bitter chapter of Zakynthos history prompts author to delve deeper into island’s past

While speaking to locals, I heard a story about the island during the Second World War and the punishment some Partisans received. It was about a Partisan who had been captured by the enemy. There was no trial. The Partisan was merely shot and thrown down a well. The locals asked that I never tell anyone the full facts, as they didn’t like talking about what had happened during the War. I’ve kept that promise to them, as some of their families are still alive.

I later learned that other Partisans on the island similarly lost their lives for fighting against the enemy. Some partisans were also shot and thrown off the cliffs into the sea. These stories were incredibly sobering and far removed from the island that we all know and love today.

Returning home, the Partisans story stayed with me, parked in a dusty corner of my brain. It became the basis of one of the storylines in my book, “Among the Olive Groves.”

Zakynthos has its own war stories to tell and I decided to weave these into the book. I felt it was important to show readers what happened and ensure it wasn’t forgotten.

Chrissie Parker is an author who lives in Burlescombe, Devon. In 2016 her book on Zakynthos, Among the Olive Groves, won an award in the Best Historical Fiction category. Chrissie is currently working on six more books, including a co-authored history book about the Greek island of Zakynthos. As well as writing and publishing eight books, Chrissie has written articles for other publications such as The Bristolian, The Huffington Post, Ancient Egypt and The Artist Unleashed.

When Doping in Sport Wasn’t Considered Cheating

Jim Thorpe and Ben Johnson Sports
Jim Thorpe and Ben Johnson were both banned from the Olympics. But if each had played at different points in history, they would have been allowed to compete. Credit: Nick Lehr/The Conversation/CC BY-SA 4.0 

In sports, what is considered fair play has changed throughout history. At one point, even doping was not considered cheating.

By Duncan Stone

Trying to gain an advantage over your opponent is as old as sport itself. But what’s considered fair and unfair is often up for debate.

In cricket, there’s “sledging,” which is when fielders verbally abuse batsmen in order to break their concentration. Baseball pitchers will use any number of substances, from Vaseline to pine tar, to get a better a grip on the ball, while football coaches will attempt to decipher their opponents’ calls on the opposing sidelines.

But, above all else, it’s doping that commands our attention, often inciting moral outrage and international condemnation. Russia’s state-sponsored doping program is only the latest scandal, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banning 47 Russian athletes and coaches from participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and now forcing Russian athletes to compete in Tokyo under the banner of “The Russian Olympic Committee”.

We tend to think of doping as the utmost assault on fair play. But sporting authorities of the past – who had no qualms about enforcing lifetime bans for other infractions – might have actually found our current angst over doping puzzling. At the same time, sports fans today would likely be confused by 19th-century efforts to exclude the poor from participating with the claim that it was the only way to ensure a level playing field.

It goes to show that as time passes, so do notions of what’s fair.

Honoring the gods at the Olympics

The ancient Olympics of Greece were staged in honor of the god Zeus. But despite the religious underpinnings, winning had little to do with modern ideas of fairness: Athletes could, within reason, attempt to win by any means necessary.

They were allowed to use technological aids, such as halters (handheld weights that would enable long jumpers to achieve greater distances), and employ sometimes-deadly violence in the pankration, a mix of wrestling and boxing where anything went (save for eye-gouging).

Greek athletes were also allowed to consume a variety of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Like the Egyptians before them, the Greeks made the connection between testes and strength. Athletes consumed animal testicles and hearts, alongside other herbal potions and hallucinogens.

It was, therefore, only those who dishonored Zeus by bribing opponents to fix contests who were punished severely, with those caught having their crimes immortalized in stone plinths called Zanes at Olympia.

Ensuring fair… betting?

In the 18th century, playing by the rules and fair play were closely associated with gambling – the lens through which both the upper and lower classes watched, played and discussed sports.

Whether it was pedestrianism (an early form of long-distance walking), boxing, horse racing or cricket, aristocrats would wager huge sums on the outcome of what were termed “challenges.” Some of sport’s earliest rules were, therefore, designed to ensure fairness for those placing bets, rather than those competing.

Everything changed once the Industrial Revolution began blurring previously impenetrable class distinctions. While the middle class vastly expanded, many social climbers possessed little of the status security enjoyed by their aristocratic predecessors. Anxious about their place within the social (and sporting) hierarchy, they increasingly strove to avoid any contact with their social inferiors.

Essentially, they wanted to rid sport of the lower classes – and the traditional excesses of gambling and drinking – to make it the realm of the elites.

Their ability to do so relied heavily on a new sporting culture called amateurism, which reinvented Classical notions of sportsmanship in order to argue that playing sports for any reason other than for “love” was in some way immoral.

The hypocrisy of amateurism in sports

At the same time, modern sporting leagues created opportunities for talented working-class athletes to supplement their incomes. Upper-class sportsmen didn’t need to make money from playing sports, so they utilized their financial advantage to further amateurism as a way to keep the working-class athlete in his place.

Fair play, in the modern sense that everyone competes on a level playing field, did not apply. And by the time a Frenchman named Pierre, Baron de Coubertin established the modern Olympics in 1896, the only “pure” athletes were gentlemen who relied on ability alone, who played out of love and wouldn’t be tempted to cheat to make more money. Even training was deemed unprincipled by amateur sportsmen such as C.B. Fry.

Meanwhile, manual laborers were often excluded in the name of fairness because they were automatically at a physical advantage (and, after all, no gentleman derived his income from manual labor). As an 1849 article in the British newspaper The Era argued it “cannot be supposed that a merchant’s clerk, for instance, is physically competent to contest with a machinist or carpenter.”

By today’s standards of fairness, it’s a logical leap. But the twisted rationale behind such rules was applied indiscriminately.

For example, an 1868 article from the Nottinghamshire Guardian described how an athlete called Peters was disqualified from an athletics race “open to all amateurs” simply because of the way he was dressed. Meanwhile, an 1871 article in The Standard reported that organizers of the Amateur Athletic Club’s Bicycle Championship reduced the field of competitors from 20 to three, as they were the only entrants judged to be “gentleman amateurs.” Even in the 1960s, cricket professionals were obliged to use separate changing rooms, which could lead to the farcical scene of an amateur captain changing alone, while his professional teammates changed elsewhere.

More serious consequences emerged in athletics where men who had done little more than accept money as teenagers when competing in other sports were ruthlessly banned for life. The most famous case relates to Jim Thorpe, who had his amateur status, Olympic gold medals and world records (pentathlon and decathlon) stripped away when it was revealed he had previously played two seasons of semi-professional baseball.

But the most tragic example may be that of John Tarrant, who became known as the “Ghost Runner.” Like Thorpe before him, Tarrant’s past mistake of accepting £17 (US $22) for a series of teenage boxing bouts in the 1940s denied him amateur status at just 20 years of age. Effectively banned for life, Tarrant became infamous for gatecrashing races – entering without permission – and regularly outperforming internationally-recognized runners.

Doping: more about sponsors than sports?

Distracted by social issues, amateur sporting bodies like the IOC have been slow to deal with the issue of doping. Although it was always frowned upon, it was usually considered a question of individual morality.

The drug-related death of cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen at the 1960 Rome Olympics didn’t change the IOC’s approach. Doping became a serious issue only after sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for stanozolol at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Ronald Reagan’s signing of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that same year also proved decisive. Part of the wider “War on Drugs,” the issue of drugs in sport was no longer a moral question, but a legal one.

This significant change notwithstanding, the authorities – even when confronted with compelling evidence – appear unable to act. Like sprinter Marion Jones, who committed perjury, cyclist Lance Armstrong could have faced time in jail — not because he doped but because he defrauded his sponsors.

It seems that, today, corporate sponsors are the gods that sports exist to please.

Given the righteous treatment of Greek match fixers and the ruthless treatment of working-class athletes in the past, the inability of sporting authorities to ban for life those who knowingly dope, over long periods of time, seems inconsistent.

Sport appears to have lost its true meaning as an enjoyable end in itself. But in an era when sporting bodies and media networks rely upon stars like Armstrong for ratings and athletes are naturalized or selected on the basis of sponsorship rather than talent, should we really be surprised?

This an updated version of an article originally published on Aug. 9, 2016. 

Duncan Stone is a Visiting Researcher, University of Huddersfield. This article was published at The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons License.

Raging Fires Spread Across Greece, Record High Temperatures

Greece fire, Varimpimpi
The aftermath of the fire in Varimpompi. Credit: Vasilis Papanikitas / Greek Reporter

Fires are overtaking various regions of Greece as the country experiences record high temperatures. The blaze has caused evacuations 13 miles north of Athens near Tatoi, in Varympopi, Adames and Thrakomakedones, as well as in the southern Peloponnese region and the islands of Evia and Kos.

Residents are leaving their houses in droves to seek shelter from the fire, but the blaze appears to be spreading to other regions of Greece at a rapid pace.

The wildfires have started as Greece reckons with its worst heat wave in over three decades. Temperatures have reached a frightening 113 degrees Fahrenheit, causing plants and trees to dry out, worsening the fire, as Athens regional governor George Patoulis explained: “The foliage is very dense in these areas and it is very dried out due to the heatwave, so the conditions are difficult. It is a large fire and it will take a lot of work to get this under control.”

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The fire burned countless homes and properties in Varimpompi, Greece. Credit: Vasilis Papanikitas / Greek Reporter

Wildfires have also developed in the southern Peloponnese region and the islands of Evia and Kos. The fire in Evia started in the forests but has quickly spread down to the beach and by the sea, leaving houses and apartments in its wake. The villages and settlements of Chronia, Sepiada, Retsinolakkos, Kalamoudi, Paliochori and Damia have all been evacuated.

“The absolute priority is the protection of human life… we are giving this battle everything we have” said Regional Governor of Sterea Fanis Spanos.

In Athens, authorities have shut down sites like the Acropolis and public and private services have closed for the afternoon.

Over 500 firefighters have been working on Mounth Parnitha, accompanied by planes and helicopters equipped with water to drop water on the fire and attempt to fight off the blaze. The wildfire is currently the strongest in Varympopi, Adames and Thrakomakedones.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with a fire brigade operations center that is working to organize the fight against the fires across the Peloponnese Peninsula and the islands of Evia and Kos.

Historic heatwave fuels fires in Greece

The heatwave that has been gripping Greece since last week broke the country’s highest-ever temperature record on Monday afternoon.

The town of Makrakomi in Greece’s Phthiotis region in the eastern part of the Greek mainland was the hottest place not only in Greece on Monday but also in the entire European continent.

The meteorological station of the National Observatory of Athens (NOA) that is stationed there recorded a jaw-dropping 46.3 degrees Celsius (115.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

This temperature is officially the highest ever to be recorded in Greece’s network of hundreds of stations operated by NOA.

For the registration of a temperature record, recordings of private stations that are operated by individuals other than NOA do not count.

Extremely high temperatures were also recorded across the Greek mainland on Monday, with the town of Dendra, northwest of Larissa in Thessaly, reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

The cities of Thebes, Sparta, and Larissa also recorded temperatures above 44 degrees Celsius on Monday.

According to Giannis Kallianos, an MP and meteorologist for Greece’s MEGA TV channel, Greece held the five highest temperatures in Europe on Monday.

Victoria Hislop Praises Cretans Who Helped Make TV Series Possible

Victoria Hislop
Victoria Hislop is surrounded by fans as she signs autographs in Greece. Credit:Vgasparis/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.5

Victoria Hislop, the British author whose love for Greece has inspired nearly all of her work, praised the generosity of the Greek people this week, saying their help made the television series adapted from her novel “Cartes Postales from Greece” possible.

Giving her thanks to the people of Greece, and especially Crete, by way of an opinion piece in the online British news source inews, Hislop, who was granted Greek citizenship last year by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said that the making of the television movie for the Greek channel ERT was even more difficult than it normally would have been because of the pandemic.

The writer worked with a team of four scriptwriters as well as a large crew for the four-month long shoot, which ended up being a bittersweet experience for the acclaimed novelist.

Victoria Hislop says entire process of making series “bittersweet”

Calling the entire process “something between a sprint and a marathon,” she says she had struggled with the concept of others changing her ideas and adding in new details and dramas into her own work.

However, by the time the effort came to an end recently, she said, she understood why it all had to happen the way it did.

She relates “One day last week, as the sun rose over the sea, I heard the words “cut” and “wrap”. They sound like they might be used in a butcher or a sandwich shop… In fact, they resounded over the Cretan beach where a TV shoot that lasted more than four months finally came to an end.”

It was less than one year since she had begun her collaboration with Greek national broadcaster ERT on Cartes Postales from Greece. Taking on such a gargantuan project during a pandemic was, the admits, “no mean feat.”

She points out that “That final moment when a film shoot finishes is bittersweet. It was sad the project had come to an end but also a relief that we had created 12 episodes of beautiful, original television. Getting to the end without any interruptions from Covid was no mean feat when a cast and crew of 50-plus had to be kept safe.”

Noting that in such situations, as would be natural with any author, the control freak part of her personality began to take over and it was “challenging” to work with the four other scriptwriters on the project.

“At the beginning it felt as if someone was snatching my baby and I experienced a visceral resistance to it. But gradually, I accepted that new details, dramas, even characters sometimes have to be added to keep a TV audience with you,” Hislop says.

As she explains, “Adapting a novel into a screenplay presents obstacles. Some of these are technical, some are practical (often financial) and some are creative. The essence of the original remains but needs something else – something that scriptwriters call ‘dramaturgy.'”

Television series relocates to Crete

Victoria Hislop’s novel Cartes Postales from Greece is about an Englishman named Anthony who is in the Greek city of Kalamata, waiting at the airport for his girlfriend to arrive. Meanwhile, there is an engagement ring in his pocket just for her.

Suddenly receiving a message that she is not indeed coming to Kalamata, Anthony’s life is put into a tailspin. The British man decides to travel around Greece trying to understand what his life is all about now.

However, Hislop’s character had to be transformed into a Greek man, according to the producers. Somehow, the author had to deal with her main character changing completely.

In the end, she explains, Anthony ended up becoming a Greek man who had spent most of his life in Britain and who wanted to “reconnect with his Greek roots.” On the way, he visits many of the places of his early years in Greece.

“Perhaps the biggest and most obvious change was the location,” Hislop states in her story. “The original stories take place in a very wide range of places, reflecting my own journeys in Greece. I travelled from Kalamata to Meteora, from Messolonghi to Ikaria. Using all the same places in a television production (and moving the crew and actors) would probably bankrupt even a US television company, so we had to find a solution.

“It was a relatively simple one: to retell the stories in Crete,” she states.

“Crete is an island, of course, but in my own mind it is more like a small country with villages, towns, lakes, mountains, caves, archaeological sites, numerous different styles and periods of buildings and contrasting atmospheres.

“We based ourselves in Agios Nikolaos and found every location we needed within a 40-minute drive. The tight budget we worked within spurred some extraordinarily creative and inventive solutions for which the artistic and technical team can be incredibly proud,” Hislop notes.

“They turned a shack into a gas station, created a life-size statue of Aphrodite (who now stands guard over my desk), and simulated an earthquake with tons of dust. Every day the production team performed some kind of miracle,” she recalls.

“Fiction and reality sometimes felt so closely intertwined.”

The author then says that the production was very dependent on the goodwill and incredible generosity of the local Cretan people. This involved “giving and lending houses, cars, locations, props, costumes – even animals!” she said.

“Having a film crew moving into a village, even for a few days, creates excitement but disruption too, but everywhere we went, there were smiles and open doors. Cretan philoxenia (“generosity” is not a worthy translation) played a huge role,” the British-Greek author admits.

“One of the later episodes, “Je Reviens”, largely takes place during the period of Nazi occupation. The streets had to be covered with tons of earth (in those days, they were not tarmacked) and the main set was a kafeneion (coffee house) which had been shut for many years.

“I stood side by side with the owner, and could sense her nostalgia at seeing her family business briefly reopened, repainted and “working” after so many years. A photograph of her grandfather hung inside. Fiction and reality sometimes felt so closely intertwined,” Hislop says, before adding “The filming has come to an end, but the memories will linger for a long, long time.”

Hislop’s novel “The Island,” published in 2005, was a number-one bestseller in Britain, “To Nisi” was filmed as a television series by the Greek TV channel MEGA.

In 2009, she donated the short story Aflame in Athens to Oxfam’s “Ox-Tales” project, four collections of British stories written by 38 authors. Hislop has a particular affection for Greece, visits the country often for research and other reasons, and has a second home on the island of Crete. She was made a Greek citizen in 2020.

Victoria Hislop is the author of several other books on Greece, including “One August Night,” the sequel to “The Island,” which is now out in paperback.

Coronavirus Cases, Intubations Spike in Greece on Tuesday

Coronavirus greece
Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public domain

Greece recorded a rise in the number of daily coronavirus in the country on Tuesday, as 3,428 total cases were recorded across the country.

The current figure marks 1,272 more instances of the virus than the 2,156 cases that had been recorded on Monday. The average age of those who tested positive for the virus in Greece is 41.

A total of 14 of Tuesday’s cases were identified during routine Covid-19 testing of tourists at the country’s borders.

Currently, there are 191 patients with the coronavirus on ventilators in Greece, which is three more than the number of patients undergoing the invasive treatment in the country yesterday, Monday.

Tragically, 14 people suffering from the coronavirus passed away in the country over the past 24-hour period, which is six more than those who died with the virus on Monday.

First 12 year old vaccinated in Greece

The first 12-year-old to receive the shot against the coronavirus in Greece was vaccinated in Didymoteicho, in Thrace, on Tuesday.

According to a post his father made on Facebook, the boy wanted to send a message to all those who are hesitant about the vaccine to go out and get the shot.

His father noted that the family takes care of the boy’s grandparents, who have been vaccinated but have underlying health conditions. That’s why, he wrote, it was important for every member of the family to get the shot, even the youngest.

The boy received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

1,332 coronavirus cases in Attica, 356 in Crete

Of the 3,428 new coronavirus cases recorded in Greece in the past 24 hours, a stunning 1,168 were located in Attica, home to the Greek capital city of Athens.

In the city of Athens, a total of 308 cases of Covid-19 were identified Tuesday.

A total of 343 coronavirus cases were found in Crete, where the Delta variant has taken hold.

In Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, 316 cases of the virus were identified on Tuesday.

Over 500,000 cases of coronavirus recorded in Greece

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 501,030 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the country, including all those who have recovered from the virus.

Of the cases diagnosed in Greece in the past seven days, just 162 are associated with foreign travel and 1,722 have been linked to contact with a known case.

Of the 191 patients intubated currently, 82.2% are over the age of 70 or suffer from preexisting conditions. Their average age is 65.

Additionally, a total of 2,815 patients have been discharged from ICUs around the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

The 14 new deaths recorded on Tuesday bring the total number of fatalities in the country to 12,997; 95.2% of those who have passed away with Covid-19 were over the age of 70 or suffered from underlying health issues.

Cris Cab Stuns Shoppers with Live Song in Mykonos Supermarket

Cris Cab mykonos
American singer-songwriter Chris Cab performed an impromptu concert during his vacation on Mykonos recently. Credit: Screenshot

American singer Cris Cab stunned shoppers in a Mykonos supermarket recently when he broke out into an impromptu live concert in the potato chip aisle.

The singer, who has worked closely with producer Pharrell Williams, visited the supermarket Flora, which is known for its DJ who is stationed in the store playing tunes for shoppers.

While there, the DJ recognized the singer, and played his 2013 smash hit “Liar Liar,” which has nearly 70 million hits on YouTube.

The singer unexpectedly burst into song, offering other shoppers the opportunity to attend a live concert for free while doing their daily grocery shopping.

Suffice it to say, they were not expecting a live rendition of Cab’s biggest hit! The suntanned singer looked delighted to perform for his fans, even while on vacation.

Cris Cab vacations on Mykonos

Cab, born Christian Cabrerizo to a Cuban-American family in Miami, is signed with Island Def Jam Records and Island Records.

The 28-year-old singer-songwriter, who takes inspiration from pop, reggae, and soul music, has produced a number of hits in his career, including a 2015 reggae-inspired cover of Sting’s song “Englishman in New York.”

Cab started his career at the tender age of 14, when he was able to record his first demo in a studio. Just one year later, when the singer was 15, hit producer Pharrell Williams took notice of him, and began to mentor Cab.

That was the beginning of a long term collaboration between the two, which resulted in a number of hits. Cab has also gone on to work with major recording artists such as Pitbull and J. Balvin.

Mykonos is a favorite destination for singers, actors

The Greek island of Mykonos remains a hub of global luxury tourism, where international travelers can experience a slice of Grecian paradise.

Mykonos is a popular destination for celebrities due to its unrivaled cosmopolitan atmosphere, fine dining and luxury accommodations, and famous nightlife.

The island is also home to approximately 25 beaches, many with golden sand and breathtaking turquoise waters, that enchant visitors, many of whom are celebrities.

Just this summer, a number of famous figures have visited the island. Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey Williams visited the iconic Greek island in late June.

The couple enjoyed the picturesque streets of the main town of Mykonos and even became friends with local Greek residents there.

Actress Demi Moore also visited Mykonos in mid-July of this year as well. The 58-year-old actress was there with her 32-year-old daughter Rumer Willis in the popular Nammos area of the island.

The mother-daughter duo enjoyed their time in the sun together, taking a dip in the sea with each other and lounging around the beach with a few of their friends.

Report Finds NY Gov. Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women

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Cuomo report sexual harassment
A new report finds that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. Credit: Pat Arrow/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

A report of the findings of a six-month-long investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s conduct has found that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including employees, and cultivated a toxic work environment.

It also concludes that Cuomo retaliated against at least one accuser after she came forward with her story regarding sexual harassment in his office.

Laetitia Green, New York State Attorney General, announced her office’s findings on Tuesday. The report concluded that Cuomo broke multiple state and federal laws during his tenure as the governor of New York.

Within the report, which numbers over 150 pages, Democrat Cuomo’s pattern of sexual harassment is laid bare through numerous allegations made by employees and staff members.

Cuomo created toxic work environment, allowing him to sexually harass employees

Cuomo was able to get away with sexually harassing members of staff after cultivating a toxic workplace environment that included intimidation and fear, the report charges.

Green hired two outside investigators, top federal prosecutor Joon H. Kim and employment lawyer Anne E. Clark, to conduct the probe into Cuomo’s conduct while in office.

Investigators pored through emails, text messages, and written accounts from members of staff, and conducted countless interviews with victims and witnesses.

According to reports, Cuomo was subject to an 11-hour round of questioning in relation to the investigation earlier this month.

The long-awaited report may fuel calls for Governor Cuomo’s resignation or even impeachment.

The first accusation of sexual harassment emerged in late February, when a former employee described a series of unwanted advances by the governor, including a kiss in his office, in front of other people.

Report could fuel calls for Cuomo’s resignation, impeachment

Shortly after the former staff member came forward, a rush of allegations of inappropriate conduct by Cuomo came to light.

After the half-dozen allegations of sexual harassment, which included unwanted touching and inappropriate comments, emerged in early 2021, many democrats openly disavowed Cuomo, son of longtime New York politician Mario Cuomo.

Despite calls to resign, the New York governor maintained that if he had made any women uncomfortable, it was not his intention, and that he did not believe that any of his conduct amounted to sexual harassment.

The third-term governor, who had once seen soaring approval ratings over his no-nonsense handling of the coronavirus pandemic, fell from grace for his role in allegedly covering up nursing home deaths as well.

His fall was compounded when the New York State Assembly launched a broad impeachment investigation into his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

Investigators brought on by the Assembly are also conducting research to determine if the governor engaged in any abuses of power in office independent of the sexual harassment allegations.