This Past Week in History: August 4th to August 10th

Vasilis Spanoulis (L). Photo: Eurokinissi, File

August 4th:

On this day in 1975, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and his family were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece while they were on vacation. Plant lost control of his rented car which spun off the road and crashed into a tree. He and his wife Maureen were severely injured, while thankfully, his children escaped with minor injuries. Plant had multiple fractures in his ankle and elbow which didn’t fully heal for another two years – causing him to spend time in a wheelchair. His wife suffered a fractured skull, leg and pelvis. The accident was so serious that the hospital in Rhodes was inadequately equipped to treat their injuries. Thus, a member of Led Zeppelin’s record company chartered a fully loaded jet with stretchers, blood plasma, and two doctors from Harley Street Clinic in England which ultimately airlifted the family back to London. As a result of the accident, Led Zeppelin canceled their North American tour and delayed the band’s release of their next album by over a year.

Also, on this day in 1991, the Greek cruise ship MTS Oceanos sank off the coast of South Africa due to uncontrolled flooding. Oceanus was a French-built and Greek-owned cruise ship that operated from Piraeus. The ship was reported to be in very poor condition when it set sail for Durban on its final voyage and was said to be in a state of neglect. This disaster gained notoriety mainly because the ship’s captain, Yiannis Avranas, and some of the crew left the ship while passengers were still on board. The South African Navy along with the South African Air Force launched a 7-hour mission in which 16 helicopters were used to airlift the passengers and crew to land. Fortunately, all 402 passengers and 179 crew members all survived – thanks not only to the South African forces but also to the ship’s entertainers who monitored rescue calls while others kept the passengers calm by playing Beatles songs on their guitars. A Greek board of inquiry ended up finding Abranas and four officers negligent in their handling of the disaster.

August 7th:

On this day in 1982, Vasileios Spanoulis, the Greek basketball player, was born in Larissa, Greece. Most of Spanoulis’ career has been spent playing in the Greek league, but he also had a brief stint with the Houston Rockets of the NBA. During the 2006-07 season, Spanoulis passed on his former team Panathinaikos’ (higher salary) offer to play for them for a chance to play in the NBA. After making the Rockets’ rotation, he had a falling out with the Rockets’ coach after he had benched him for playing poorly. He was eventually traded by the Rockets to the San Antonio Spurs who ultimately released him a little over a month after he joined the team. This gave Spanouli the chance he wanted: to return to Greece to play for Panathinaikos Athens. Spanoulis played for Panathinaikos until 2010 and then signed with Olympiacos. On July 2, 2018, he signed a one-year contract extension with Olympiacos. It has been reported that Spanoulis was the first Greek-born player to play for the Rockets and was the first Greek-born player in the NBA.

August 10th:

On this day in 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed. This Treaty, which was ultimately replaced with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, was a post-World War I pact between the victorious Allied powers (excluding the United States and the USSR) and the representatives of the government of Turkey. The Treaty effectively abolished the Ottoman Empire and provided for an independent Armenia, an autonomous Kurdistan and for a Greek presence in eastern Thrace. Smyrna and its environs were also placed under Greek administration pending a plebiscite to determine its permanent status. The Treaty was accepted by the government of Sultan Mehmed Vahdettin VI (Constantinople) but was ultimately rejected by the new rival Turkish nationalist regime of Kemal Ataturk (Ankara). Ataturk had negotiated a separate treaty with the USSR and his subsequent victories against the Greeks during what Turkey calls its War of Independence forced the Allies to negotiate a new treaty in 1923 (the Treaty of Lausanne) which replaced the Treaty of Sevres.

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