The bicentennial is upon us— that ever-important celebration of 200 years since Greeks decided to claim their place amongst European nations and opt for self-determination, at any cost.
Although revolts had sprung up well before 1821 and independence didn’t come until several years after, March 25th was designated as Independence Day for religious and nationalistic reasons in order to create a national narrative and 1821 was the year— the year not that Greeks became free— but the year they decided they wanted to become free.
And whether or not it was the revolts in Sfakia or Mani in the 1700s that well-preceded 1821, or real independence that occurred almost a decade later— 1821 is the year that was chosen by the national storytellers and 2021 will be the bicentennial.
But all of this is irrelevant to the main story right now and for the subject of my appeal to those who might be reading this who happen to be in a position of power or influence over the narrative that will be, the bicentennial celebrations of Greek Independence.
While most Greeks know something about the revolution that began in 1821, I would venture to say that many don’t know that that spark was lit by individuals living outside the borders of Greece, proper. The idea and concept of a Greek Nation began well outside the geographical region of the Greece– in faraway European cities by members of the Greek diaspora who not only funded the revolt, but also used their influence to enlist the support of their national governments in support of the revolution.
In short– the Greek War of Independence began outside of Greece, with the support of the Greek diaspora.
The Greek government has appointed Mrs. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, a former politician and billionaire’s wife who took over the sinking ship that was the planning of the Athens 2004 Olympics and guided it to safety— and success.
By most accounts, Mrs. Angelopoulou-Daskalaki put on the most successful Olympics in history, which automatically qualify her to succeed in this monumental task of creating bicentennial celebrations and events that will go far beyond the kitsch and nationalistic and have far reaching impact not only on Greek schoolchildren in Astoria and Melbourne, but also non-Greek Americans, Canadians, Australians and others throughout the world.
In short– the Greek diaspora was part of the Revolution and the Greek diaspora must be part of the Bicentennial.
Personally, I have complete faith in Ms. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki’s ability to organize and execute. She is one of Greece’s most capable leaders and has proven her organizational skills and vision.
Full disclosure– I did take issue with her in the past– specifically in an editorial I published in August of 2015 on the anniversary of the Summer Olympics, lambasting her for not creating sustainable Olympics that had a long-term strategy for the use of the venues, which are largely crumbling or in disrepair throughout the city.
My issue then wasn’t about the planning and execution of the games themselves– which were flawless. My issue was that in the planning, there was nothing taken into account about “the day after” and how the legacy of 2004 won’t be crumbling buildings.
Hopefully, Ms. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and her team will use these lessons of the past to create a bicentennial celebration that will be true to the history and impact of the revolution– globally, and will have a long-lasting impact, well after 2021.
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