President Barack Obama was in Greece for a few days, on his official “farewell tour”. He was only the fourth sitting U.S. to ever visit the country and the two-day trip was covered extensively in the mainstream media.
The trip included visits to the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, a State Dinner hosted by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and an historic speech at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center in Athens where the president spoke about democracy and globalization.
The visit was covered by every mainstream news organization and the speech was even broadcast live via Facebook by the White House. (Watch President Obama’s speech here) and while the world watched the speeches and all of the public broadcasts– we’ve captured some interesting facts, tidbits and stories that weren’t fully covered in the mainstream media that might be of interest to our readers.
SECURITY & PROTESTS
While President Obama was arguing for debt relief for Greece, thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators and anarchists were doing this:
Because of the security risks, the President’s main speech– which was supposed to be given outdoors at Pnyx Hill, was relocated to the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center.
More than 4,000 Greek police officers were on duty during the President’s visit and it was reported that more than 400 secret service members arrived in Greece prior to the President from the United States to secure locations and work out the details with various Greek agencies.
Three identical limousines were used in the motorcade to confuse potential attackers, which is a typical safety measure wherever the U.S. President travels. The motorcade included dozens of vehicles and was captured driving by the Greek Parliament. All in all it took more than a minute for all of the cars to drive by:
THE MENU AT THE STATE DINNER?
The menu at the State Dinner was coordinated between chefs at the Greek Presidential Mansion and White House staffers so that food was agreeable to the President’s diet.
Dinner included a shrimp risotto as a starter, followed by Greek sfyrida or grouper, hand picked by the Greek chefs from the fish markets of Athens especially for the occasion. The meal was accompanied with Greek white wine and completed with chestnut spoon sweets, also known as glyko koutaliou.
The invitation list included a who’s who from the Greek political world, including members of the current government, as well as certain members of the opposition, including Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the head of the New Democracy party. There were only 130 people invited.
The list also included numerous Greek industrialists and socialites, including Marianna Vardinogianni and Marianna Latsis, both known for their philanthropic activities in Greece and abroad.
Several Greek Americans were also present, including AHEPA President Andrew C. Zachariades, Mark Arey the executive director of the Hellenic Initiative, Nick Larigakis the executive director of the American Hellenic Institute, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, author Nicholas Gage and longtime Obama hometown friend Alexi Giannoulias from Chicago.
The dinner included entertainment by a Greek children’s choir that performed Greek songs by Mikis Theodorakis, as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and John Lennon’s Imagine. The clip is from Pete Souza, White House photographer’s personal Instagram account:
The President was also greeted by traditional costumed women representing various regions of Greece from the Lykeion ton Ellindon.
Obama didn’t stay in central Athens, opting instead for a bungalow room (not even the Presidential Suite!) at the famed Astir Palace in Vouliagmeni. Upon departure, he left a note of thanks in the hotel’s guest book.
Upon his departure, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras bid farewell to the U.S. President at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport and as Obama boarded Air Force One, a farewell gift awaited him from one of the American journalists that accompanied him on the trip to Greece– a box of baklava.
The reporter from ABC News tasted the baklava at the Grand Bretagne Hotel where he and his journalist colleagues were staying during the trip and said it was the best he had ever tasted. He asked hotel chefs to prepare a box to give to the President for his trip to Germany.