Photos: Areti Bratsis
In a festive and multi-faceted ceremony, organized by Greek-American non-profit organization Alpha Omega Council, attended by over 400 people on Thursday, April 12, at the State House, Great Hall of Flags, on Beacon Hill, the Consul General of Greece, Stratos Efthymiou presented four olive branch wreaths to the Boston Athletic Association, which will be used to crown the winners of this coming Monday’s 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. The olive branch wreaths were grown, cut, and plaited into winners’ wreaths in Greece, and delivered as a gift from the country of Greece, where the marathon originated, for the Boston Marathon, upholding a long tradition of collaboration and respect between the organizers of the Boston Marathon and the people of Greece.
Present at the ceremony was His Eminence Methodios Metropolitan of Boston, the President of the Boston Athletic Association, Dr. Michael P. O’Leary, Massachusetts State Senator Mr. Bruce Tarr, Rhode Island State Senator Mr. Leonidas Raptakis, the President of the Alpha Omega Council, Mr. Peter Lemonias, Mr. Tim Kilduff, Director 26.2 Foundation, Mrs. Diana Paolitto, of The Examined Life, representatives of the Boston Consular corps, and distinguished guests. CBS (WBZ-TV) Award-winning broadcast journalist and anchorwoman Paula Ebbens served as the Ceremony’s Emcee.
The Consul General of Greece also honored the 12 student essayists, out of the 750 entries from three Massachusetts public schools (Boston Latin Academy, Ashland MS, Hopkinton MS) in this year’s Marathon Educational Initiative’s essay contest about the Battle of Marathon, selected for their exceptional essays, awarding them a certificate and a gift from Greece.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans received an Honorary olive branch from Marathon, Greece in recognition of his exemplary service to the people of Boston, and his passion as a Marathon runner. Mr. Efthymiou conveyed to Commissioner Evans an invitation from SEGAS, the Hellenic Athletics Federation, to travel to Greece as its special guest and run in the Athens Classic Marathon race in November 2018.
The delivery of the wreaths started in 1984 when the governor of Massachusetts was Michael Dukakis. The wreaths are offered in honour of Greek runner Stelios Kyriakidis, winner of the 1946 Boston Marathon, who had travelled from war-ravaged Greece, still devastated in the aftermath of WWII and the Nazi occupation, to participate in the Boston Marathon and prevail over local champion John Kelly. Referring to Kyriakidis, Kelly had said: “how could I ever beat such an athlete? I was running for myself and he ran for a whole country”.
After his victory, Kyriakidis raised awareness of Greece’s plight among the Americans and Greek-Americans, who collected and sent financial and humanitarian aid to poverty-stricken and deprived Greece. He is considered the first athlete to run with the aim of raising public awareness of a specific cause.
The Boston Marathon began in 1897 following the great interest in Ancient Greek athletics and civilization that accompanied the rebirth of the Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, which had originally been held in Olympia, Greece from 776 BC to 394 AD.
The modern Boston Marathon invokes the historical event of the 26-mile run by the Greek messenger Pheidippides from the battle plain of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the invading Persian army. This Greek victory at Marathon is recognized as a critical historical event in the preservation of Greek civilization and its fledgling political system known as democracy, and the subsequent flowering of academics, philosophy, literature, and theater that formed the basis for Western Civilization. Ancient Olympic winners were crowned with victors’ wreaths, and the Boston Marathon continues this ancient tradition now in the city often referred to as the “Athens of America”.