Despair for Greek Olympic Program

Published on January 17th, 2021

In ancient Greece, athletics emerged as “a way of communicating that brings a great sense of connection between people.” It allowed individuals to elevate their position in society, train for combat, represent their city-state, and earn respect among their peers.

From this culture in 1896 came the first modern Olympics held in Athens, and Greece has been one of only four countries to have competed in every Summer Games. However, the Sailing Program for the nation is suffering with the weight of recent news:

• Greek Olympic sailing champion Leonidas Pelekanakis, aged 58, died of COVID-19 on January 14 after an almost two-month battle with the illness. The athlete did not have any underlying health issues and had been taking part in open sea sailing events until October of 2020. Pelekanakis had competed in the two-person keelboat (Star class) at the 1984, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics, achieving 6th and two 11th positions, respectively. Pelekanakis was born in Piraeus on November 2, 1962.

• A senior Greek sporting official has resigned, following allegations of sexual abuse made by one of the country’s top female Olympians. Aristeidis Adamopoulos stepped down as vice president of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) on Saturday (Jan. 16), soon after the allegations were made.

Sofia Bekatorou said a member of HSF performed a “lewd act” after inviting her to his hotel room in 1998. But she did not name the individual and investigations are ongoing. Adamopoulous has denied any wrongdoing, and said he had resigned due to the “great negative publicity” the allegations would have on the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

Bekatorou, a gold and bronze medalist, made the allegations during an online event this week organized by Greece’s sport ministry which was focused on protections for children in sports. She said the incident, which was non-consensual, took place ahead of the 2000 Sydney Olympics when she was aged 21. – Full report

• The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), one of the world’s leading international philanthropic organizations, issued a letter to the President of the Hellenic Sailing Federation, expressing its shock and dissatisfaction with the response and the statements of the Federation regarding the very serious allegations by Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou. SNF is therefore suspending its current grant to the Federation for its sailing training program for athletes with disabilities. – Full report

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