BOSTON – The 36th Annual Marathon Wreath Ceremony was held at the Massachusetts State House where Consul General of Greece Stratos Efthymiou presented four olive branch wreaths to the Boston Athletic Association and which were used to crown the winners of Monday’s 123rd running of the Boston Marathon.
The festive ceremony was organized by the Consulate General of Greece in Boston and the Alpha Omega Council, a Greek-American non-profit organization. It was attended by over 400 people at Great Hall of Flags in the Massachusetts State House.
The Consul General of Greece recognized 12 local student essayists chosen out of nearly 1,000 students from schools along the marathon route. The contest called for essays on the historical significance of the Battle of Marathon, part of the “Boston Marathon educational initiative” which promotes classical education and civic responsibility through lectures, tours, and educational visits.
Pupils from the Hopkinton High School – all of them Americans – sang the Greek National Anthem in fluent Greek.
Prominent Greek-American businessman and philanthropist George Behrakis told The National Herald that “I think this is one of the best attended ceremonies I have seen in many years. It is a credit not only to the Consul General but to the Alpha -Omega Council. We need more of these events, but we need to bring the youth here so they can see this and so they can know about the Marathon not only in
Greece but the Boston Marathon. We need to foster this for all young kids and help them learn the heritage and the history we have.” Behrakis also said, “I love the chorus signing the Greek Anthem in Greek, especially when none of its members are Greek.”
Consul General Stratos Ethymiou said, “We are very privileged to present these four gold wreaths, [made of olive branches] cut from [trees from] the plains of Marathon, as a gift from the people of Greece. These wreaths connect Boston and Greece with the Boston Marathon and the ideals of democracy and liberty.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said, “The Marathon is a time when the connection between our countries shines brightest.” He added, “I’m very proud that we’ve been able to keep these beautiful traditions alive. And I thank you all for making this such a special event for the entire community.”
Boston Athletic Association President Dr. Michael O’Leary said “Our own footrace owes its start to the 1896 revival of the Olympic Games in Athens. We are honored to continue the tradition of Apollo, crowning victors with olive wreaths, as we look to celebrate the 123rd year of Boston Marathon history. We graciously accept these wreaths both as an honor for Monday’s winners but also as a symbol of Boston’s bond with the people of Greece.”
Present was former Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis, who inaugurated the ceremony in 1984. He spoke about his experience running the Boston Marathon at age of 17.
The wreaths are offered in the name of Stylianos Kyriakides a true humanitarian, patriot, and marathon champion. His great-granddaughter Anastasia Papanikolaou, a student in a New York University was also present.
Stylianos Kyriakides’ 1946 Boston Marathon victory over renowned marathoner Johnny Kelley is still considered one of the most memorable in Boston Marathon history. After his victory, Kyriakides stayed in the United States raising funds and medical supplies for his countrymen who were suffering from the aftermath of WW II. Upon returning home he was met in the streets of Athens by a million people.
The evening also honored WBZ-TV for its ongoing dedication to covering the Boston Marathon and elevating awareness for the Wreath Ceremony’s importance and core values. Mark Lund, President and GM of WBZ-TV accepted the award.
Present at the ceremony were representatives of the Boston consular corps, State Senators, elected dignitaries, the President of the Alpha Omega Council, Nick Ypsilantis, Tim Kilduff, Director of the 26.2 Foundation, and distinguished guests. CBS (WBZ-TV) Award-winning broadcast journalist and anchorwoman Paula Ebben served as the Ceremony’s Emcee.