The Substantial Greek Contribution To The Modern Olympic Movement

Greek supporters played an essential role in the Revival of the Olympic Games. Right after the liberation of 1821 the Greeks’ first concern was the restoration of the Olympic Games. We owe a lot to Evangelos and Konstantinos Zappas of Northern Epirus thanks to whose massive sponsorship were held the 4 “Olympia” competition and exhibition events from 1959 to 1975 in central Athens.

The events that followed in the interior as well as in England and France, helped to form a more substantial modern competition format in Sports.

The Revival of the Games with the spirituality, intelligence and talent of Baron Pierre de Coubertin brought the Olympic Games to improve every 4 years in organizational, competitive and popularity levels.

In those 153 years many Greeks have substantially helped the foundation of the modern Olympic Games. Most came – naturally – from the capital and were mainly representatives of Panellinios Association GA and Panathinaikos AO who at the time cultivated all sports.

Based on existing data and doing an impartial selection, those who had the greatest contribution, with very few continuing still, are the following:

EVANGELOS ZAPPAS: (1800 – 1865) Coming from Lampovo of North Epirus. Called as Vaggelis he fought together with Markos Botsaris. In 1831 he emigrated to Romania where he acquired vast estates. In 1859 the first “Olympia” events were held thanks to his sponsorship. His cousin Konstantinos Zappas (1812 – 1893) who was also a national benefactor was the executor of his will to continue the “Olympia” in 1870 and 1875 as well as the Zappion “Store of the Olympians” which was the first Olympic Village. The educator Pierre de Coubertin (1862 – 1937) was inspired from these 3 events of “Olympia” and decided on the Revival of the Olympic Games.

GEORGIOS AVEROF: (1818-1899). Coming from Metsovo. He acquired a large fortune in cotton trade in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a versatile benefactor. Without his own expense for the marble re-building of the Panathenaic Stadium, the Games of 1896 would not be performed. He also contributed to the construction of the Polytechnic University, the Prisons “Averof”, the Military Academy, the purchase of the Battleship, the Agricultural School of Larissa, many Schools etc. In Kalimarmaro were also held the Olympic Games in 1906 as well as events in 2004. Georgios Averof who served as a minister of Eleftherios Venizelos and was president of the HOC was his nephew.

DIMITRIS VIKELAS: Writer with elements of origin from Syro (mostly), Istanbul, Veria and Naoussa. First President of the IOC (1894 – 1896) with first General Secretary the Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The desire of the one who revitalized the Olympics was that the first appointed President to be Greek and Dimitris Vikelas as a spiritual man and a resident of the French capital was the best choice. Moreover, he proved excellent in his work as with his wisdom and skill he managed to overcome the dozens of problems he encountered. He was perfect in his duties. He died in 1912 bequeathing his vast library to the city of Heraklion of Crete.

IOANNIS KETSEAS: An Athenian with Peloponnesian origin, coming from a military family. He was the most active member of the HOC from 1927 until his death on 6/8/1965. He was the captain of the Olympic Teams in the Olympics of 1936, 1948 and 1952. A member of the IOC from 1948 to 1965. President of Athletics Federation and General Secretary or Vice President of the HOC (with rotations) from 1935 until his death. He was a high jump athlete and a tennis player. Co-creator with Carl Diem start of the Olympic Torch Relay. Inspirer with Taher Pasha of the Mediterranean Games, First General Secretary of the CIJM. The Olympic Stadium of Kalogreza was his idea. Founder of the Olympic Academy at 1949, creator of the Athens Tennis Club, with its beautiful area and was a contributor to the existence of the Olympic Swimming Pool.

NIKOLAOS NISIOTIS: Athenian. Was a victim of a road accident on 18/8/1986 at an age of full creative activity. Professor at the University of Athens, Geneva, etc. A scientist of international prestige. Member of the IOC 1978 – 1986 and Chairman of the International Olympic Academy until his death. He was Coach of the National Basketball Team, and spiritual father of a great generation of students of the Olympic Movement. He left early.

APOSTOLOS NIKOLAIDIS: 1896 to 1980. Born in Filippoupoli. He studied in Istanbul and Germany. Co-founder of Panathinaikos. Competed in 1920 in Track & Field and Football at the Olympics in Antwerp. He was a member of the HOC since 1936 and Chairman of HOC from 1974 to 1976. He was also chairman of SEGAS, EPO, ELPA, Cavalry Group, International Conferences etc. Creative, hardworking, great silent economic benefactor, a lover of all sports.

GEORGE VICHOS: 1915 – 1990. Athenian coming from an athletic family. Participated in the Olympic Games at Shooting in 1936, 48, 52. Shooting Champion of Greece from 1933 to 1954. First General Secretary of Sports. First Greek President of an International Federation. He was a lawyer and a Prefect. Member of the HOC and the General Secretary. Inspirer – the creator of the Union of Olympians in 1987.

ANTONIS TZIKAS: The highly popular in the sporting world as “Nino” President. Born in Thessaloniki, was a multitalented athlete of Iraklis S.C. Since the regime change of 30/8/1974 a member of HOC which he followed judiciously throughout its rise. Second and First Vice President and President in 1993. Captain of the Olympic Team in Moscow in 1980, with its many successes, he was not only benign to all but especially active and energetic towards the youth. The only one who visited with his special committee the Primary Schools of the country to spread the Olympic Spirit.

SPYROS KAPRALOS: He is the Chairman of HOC from 2009 to today. Born in 1955 and competed in the Olympic Games at Water Polo from 1980 to 1984. Swimming Champion from 1969 to 1975. Captain of the Greek Olympic Team in 1996 in Atlanta. He is a member of the Association of European Olympic Committees and Chairman of the Olympic Culture Committee. He was a leading member of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games of 2004, as well as President of the Athens Exchange, the ETEBA and President of European Stock Exchange Association.

EPAMINONDAS PETRALIAS: An exquisite swimmer and water polo player of Patras N.O. Lawyer. Member of the HOC from 1949 until his death on 24/11/1977. He was a member of the IOC (1975 – 77). President of the International Olympic Academy, Secretary General of CIJM, Vice President of HOC, Co-Captain of the Team of the 1960 Olympics. The driving force of “Soldier’s Shirt.” During the “Junta” (1967 – 74), as General Secretary he coped cautiously with all matters arising.

ANGELOS VOLONAKIS: According to the records of the period before WWII, the IOC had the right to appoint its representative in each country. In 1933 they chose Angelos Volonakis for Greece and Egypt, an international personality based in Alexandria where thrived a strong Greek business community headed by the Averof family from Epirus. At that time Greece had the privilege of 2 members in the IOC. Angelos Volonakis remained a member until his death in 1963.

NIKOLAOS FILARETOS: An Athenian who entered in the activities of HOC on the recommendation of Ap. Nicolaides, but showed sportsmanship, hard work and dedication. He was President of the International Olympic Academy, General Secretary of the Mediterranean Games and IOC member from 1981 to 2008. Although his main interest was directed to football, he moved creatively to all sports venues at home and abroad.