King George of Greece addressed dignitaries and athletes from 13 countries gathered in Panathenaic Stadium, delivering the time-honored words: “I declare the opening of the first international Olympic Games in Athens!” As it was also the country’s Independence Day 1896, the King said: “Long live the Nation! Long live the Greek People!” receiving an enraptured applause inside the ancient stadium.
Several rows above in the in the VIP section, German IOC member Willibald Gebhardt told Baron Pierre de Coubertin: “All this is your work”.
One-hundred and twenty-five years later, Coubertin’s work, still being carried out across Greece’s hallowed Olympic land, continues in earnest. A triumvirate of significant ceremonies and meetings will once again bring the IOC and Olympic family together, all occurring within a tight span of just two weeks in October.
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the IOC Executive Board, an in-person meeting in Athens, will kick off the busy two weeks on October 15. Shortly thereafter, the Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony takes place in Ancient Olympia on October 18, as the flame will then proceed and arrive at Panathenaic Stadium, the next day, for the handover ceremony with Beijing 2022 organizers. Finally, the Association of National Olympic Committees is holding its XXV General Assembly on the island of Crete, October 24-25.
The convergence of the three events in Greece is unprecedented.
“It is a great honor for Greece to be able to host these three prestigious events,” Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos tells Around the Rings. “All three events are critically important to the Olympic Movement and we are committed to ensuring they are as successful as possible.
“With all three events coming within two weeks, there is a lot to prepare and organize, but in Greece we have a lot of experience hosting major events and so we have every confidence we will deliver to a high standard.
“Greece is of course the birthplace of the Olympic Games and we have a lot of tradition and heritage that will be on full display in Ancient Olympia for the lighting ceremony. However, we are also a modern and dynamic country and will showcase this during the IOC Executive Board meeting and ANOC General Assembly,” he said.
Capralos was re-elected president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, for a fourth term, on September 22. The IOC member and two-time Olympian in water polo was also elected president of the European Olympic Committees in June. The veteran Greek sports leader highlighted what can be expected at each of the three events.
“Our plan is to make all the events as memorable and well-organised as possible. I am not an Executive Board member so will not be attending the meeting, but we want to ensure the EB has everything it needs to run the meeting efficiently and effectively,” Capralos said about the EB meeting, the first to be held in Greece in 17 years.
“The lighting ceremony will be a unique moment so soon after the end of Tokyo 2020. The ceremony is always a very symbolic moment for the Olympic Games and will mark an exciting countdown to Beijing 2022.”
The two ceremonies in Ancient Olympia and at the Panathenaic Stadium will proceed without the presence of an audience due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lastly, the ANOC General Assembly will be an important meeting not just for the NOC family but the wider Olympic Movement,” Capralos continues. “Having been unable to stage the General Assembly last year due to the global pandemic and wide-spread restrictions on international travel, it will be a critical opportunity for ANOC to bring the NOCs together to share experiences, opportunities and challenges.
“We recognise the huge value of the ANOC General Assembly and were honoured to step in two months ago and agree to host the event,” he said.
The ANOC Acting President discusses Greece’s three upcoming events
Robin Mitchell, the acting president of ANOC and an IOC Executive Board Member, is looking forward to his return to Greece for the trio of events.
“These are of course three significant events - the meeting of the IOC Executive Board is always an important event as the EB manages the affairs of the IOC and helps guide its future direction,” Mitchell tells Around the Rings. “It is fitting that the 100th anniversary will take place in Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
“And of course the ANOC General Assembly is the biggest coming together of the Olympic Movement outside of the Olympic Games and for it to be happening after two years makes it even more significant.”
The twenty-fifth edition of the ANOC General Assembly on the island of Crete, 300 kilometres from Athens, relocated first from Seoul and then from the Greek capital, marks the first time that the annual gathering of the world’s NOC’s has taken place in Greece.
“The Olympic Movement has shown great adaptability during the pandemic in finding ways to operate online and ensure we continue to move forwards,” Mitchell said. “Many of the innovations and initiatives that have been developed out of necessity will be here to stay as they’ve shown that we can be efficient and sustainable when we work online.
“However, sometimes nothing compares to people coming together, in person, to discuss and share ideas. We are sure that the face-to-face element of ANOC General Assembly will help stimulate discussion and debate which will benefit the NOC family.”
Echoing the thoughts of his IOC colleague, Capralos emphasizes the magnitude of the upcoming meetings being held with attendees alongside one another.
“It is very special - we have missed face-to-face contact over the last 18 months,” Capralos said. “We showed during the pandemic that we can remain united even during challenging times and the inclusion of “Together” in the Olympic motto reflects our commitment to unity.
“We will always enjoy the opportunity to meet our friends and colleagues in person.”
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