The Sacramento Bee, 24 October 2000
Greek leader shares vision for a 2004 'Olympic truce'
By Stephen Magagnini
Bee Staff Writer
(Published Oct. 24, 2000)
In ancient Greece, warring kings would observe a truce in honor of the Olympic Games.
Greece would like to see that tradition observed worldwide during the the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where the Olympics were born nearly 3000 years ago.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said Greeks plan to take the Olympic flame throughout the world's conflict-ridden regions "if they [both sides] agree to uphold the truce."
In September, about 180 world leaders endorsed the idea of an "Olympic truce," Papandreou told a gathering of political and business leaders Monday at the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento.
The American-born Papandreou, who spent his childhood in Berkeley, is touring the United States to promote business between the two countries. He was invited here by Western Policy Center, a think-tank focused on southeastern Europe whose trustees include Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and his son Kyriakos.
Papandreou, 48, called the Olympics "the biggest festival that humanity organizes; it should become a cultural event where we highlight the best values humanity has to offer." He said he was particularly moved to see North and South Korea march under the same flag during the recent Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Papandreou, considered a possible future candidate for prime minister, depicted Greece as the "steam engine" of peace and democracy in the Balkans. He has been credited with pushing Yugoslavia in that direction, before and after the authoritarian Milosevic regime.
Greece is the only country in the region that belongs to NATO and the European Union, and the only country that has a stable democracy. Papandreou said he favors the inclusion of all southeastern Europe into the European Community as long as human rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law are respected and that "we don't change borders trying to create ethnically clean societies... . We're asking the countries in this region basically for a small revolution. We're asking Turkey to be much more open and democratic and to change its policy toward Cypress and Greece."
Papandreou said Cypress has been cleared for admission to the European Union, which he hopes will encourage Turkey to end its 26-year occupation of the northern part of the island.
Greece, which enjoyed a 4 percent growth in its economy this year, is a major investor in the Balkans, and Papandreou said more international investment in the region will help promote democracy.
He said he also hopes Greek Americans will play a role in developing the infrastructure and technology for the 2004 Olympics. Hotels, roads and public transportation systems are all being upgraded, and a new airport has already opened.
"We are planning a reconstruction of the ancient city of Athens where visitors can feel what ancient Greece was like," he said. To that end, he said he plans to negotiate with Great Britain for the temporary return of the Elgin marbles, a collection of sculptures taken from the Parthenon by the Earl of Elgin in the early 19th century.