Olympics could help ease Greece’s burning issue

NORMAN GILLER holds a torch for Athens, for Harry Evans, and for Tottenham

The "ancient" tradition of the Olympic torch relay, which dates all the way back to 1936 and Hitler's Games

As the Olympic torch starts its great British hand-to-hand tour from Lands End tomorrow, I wonder if the world should be thinking of making this the last time the flame leaves its ancestral home of Greece?

The only thing that can get bankrupted Greece off its knees is its attraction as a tourists’ paradise, and to make Athens the permanent home of the Olympics would go a huge way to helping them get back into profit and pride.

This would save cities taking huge gambles by risking billions in staging the Games every four years. Yes, Britain has proved it can be done without breaking the bank … but could London’s legacy yet be a white elephant stadium?

The Athens Olympic Stadium and other arenas – all built for the 2004 Games largely with money from the European Union – have hardly been over-used in the last eight years. It would be cost-effective to update and upgrade these 21st century venues to use them as a permanent home for future Olympics, and give Greece a massive tourism boost once every four years.

And while we’re about it, let’s give them back the Elgin Marbles as another massive tourist attraction.

Greece should keep the Olympic flame permanently

I float the idea here at our Sports Journalists’ Association home in the hope it might permeate the thoughts of our members so that they will get behind it and give Greece hope for the future.

Those of us who have visited the beautiful Greek islands and enjoyed the hospitality of wonderfully warm people should let them know we are ready to help them through their despair.

I am still in a deep sulk at having my application to run a leg of the torch relay turned down. As an Olympic chronicler of several books, I know better than most the history of the Games.

The torch tradition does not go back nearly as far as most people think. It was the innovation of German sports historians Carl Deim and Dr Theodor Lewald, who knew the legend of how a fire was kept burning throughout the ancient Olympics to commemorate Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind.

It was they who came up with the idea of a torch relay, and convinced Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, that it would help give a pre-Games boost to the Berlin Olympics of 1936.

Hitler had originally dismissed the Olympics as “the project of Jews and Freemasons”, but was won over when it was explained that the Games would accentuate a link between ancient Greece and modern Germany as a manifestation of Aryan purity (somebody forgot to tell Jesse Owens). Lewald, one of the chief authors of the idea, was later stripped of his power because he had a Jewish grandfather, while Deim was classified as “a white Jew” because he had a Jewish wife.

Deim was considered to have compromised himself by his willingness to go along with the Nazi ideals, and there have been several attempts to paint him out of German and Olympic history.

But his idea of the torch relay lives on as yachtsman Ben Ainslie runs the first of 8,000 stages in Cornwall tomorrow.

WHILE HARRY REDKNAPP  (along with thousands of suddenly Bayern-baying Tottenham fans) sweats on the outcome of tomorrow’s Champions League final, he must be wondering what he escaped by missing out on the England manager’s job.

Roy Hodgson has already been torn to shreds on Twitter and Facebook without a ball being kicked. His squad for the Euros has been greeted with a mixture of derision and scorn.

For Harry, it would not have mattered so much because he famously claimed in court he has the writing age of a two-year-old. But the more scholarly Hodgson will be well advised to stay offline.

If I were a sports editor, I would plant a reporter in a Tottenham pub tomorrow to record the atmosphere as a corner of London becomes like a Munich bierkeller. A Chelsea win against Bayern Munich will rob Spurs of a Champions League place and at least £20 million [The Editor writes: Rob? Rob? They finished fourth in the league].

As the resident columnist here on the SJA website, I will of course remain neutral and wish Chelsea the best of luck in bringing the cup home to London, becoming the first London club to win the European Cup.

But down here in dozy, delightful Dorset you just might hear the chant: “Gehen sie, Bayern München.”

And I hope the Chelsea-blue extremist who edits this column will keep his thoughts to himself {The Editor writes: Too late].

Fleet Street great Sir Harry Evans: suitable adversary for Murdoch

REVENGE IS BEST served cold, and Fleet Street great Sir Harold Evans was coldness incarnate as he got his own back on his old boss Rupert Murdoch in the latest episode of the Leveson Soap… sorry, Inquiry.

Murdoch had kicked Evans in the unmentionables when he told the Inquiry he removed Harry as Editor of The Times “to head off a rebellion”.

Evans, under oath, yesterday accused Murdoch of sowing the seeds of the phone hacking scandal by “forcing Britain’s most respected newspapers into a Faustian bargain” with the most powerful politicians.

His evidence suggested that Murdoch did just about everything Murdoch – also under oath – said he did not do.

That is meant to sound complicated, because it captures how conflicting the statements are being made to Lord Chief Justice Brian Leveson.

Talk about the Life of Brian. This is fast becoming like a Greek tragedy.

  • Read Norman Giller’s previous columns for the SJA website by clicking here


Thu June 7: SJA Ladbrokes Lunch with Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics. Click here for booking details.

One thought on “Olympics could help ease Greece’s burning issue

  1. Brilliant idea from uncle Norman. Yes, help Greece out by giving them the Games. At the same time it will put an end to the undignified and wholly over-expensive scramble by other cities.

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