This Week in History: August 23th to August 30th

Fani Chalkia. File Photo/Eurokinissi/Action Images.

August 25th:

On this day in 2004, Greek athlete Fani Chalkia (born in Larissa) came out of her retirement to compete in her home Olympics in Athens. She won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles in 52.82 seconds. (During the semifinals, she set the Olympic record of 52.77 seconds). She followed up her Olympic gold medal with a silver at the 2006 Gothenburg European Championships.

However, two years after that win, it was announced at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing that Chalkia tested positive for the banned substance methyltrienolone. Chalkia denied she had taken any substances, and asked for her ‘B’ sample to be tested, which also tested positive the next day. She was immediately excluded from the 2008 games. On December 12, 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations announced that she would be banned from the sport for two years.

Also on this day in 2010, Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark married Tatiana Blatnik at the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas on the island of Spetses in Greece. The couple had been in a long term relationship before becoming engaged right before New Year’s Day in 2009. Until July 2010, when Tatiana resigned to concentrate on her wedding plans, she worked as an event planner and publicity consultant for fashion designer (and royal) Diane von Furstenberg.

Tatiana was born in Caracas to parents of Slovenian and German origin. She went to boarding school in Switzerland and then studied sociology at Georgetown University. The wedding weekend was jump started by a cocktail party on the harbor of Spetses at the Poseidonion Grace Hotel. The wedding ceremony was widely reported in the Greek media as the entire Danish Royal Family (with the exception of Crown Prince Frederik) and other foreign royals traveled to Spetses to attend the marriage.

August 27th:

On this day in 2001, Michael Dertouzos, the Greek internet pioneer and former Director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, passed away at the young age of 64. Dertouzos was born in Athens to a father who served as an admiral in the Greek navy and a mother who was a concert pianist. Upon graduating from Athens College in 1954, Dertouzos moved from Athens to the Ozarks, having received a Fulbright Scholarship to study electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas.

He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from that university and then went on to MIT where he completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in three years. Upon graduating, he immediately joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor, thereby beginning his long career at the university.

Under his leadership, the Lab for Computer Science at MIT developed many of the technologies that underlie today’s computers, including one of the best-known methods for scrambling data – the RSA encryption system – and innovations that helped bring the World Wide Web into popular use. Dertouzos also predicted the popularity of personal computers and helped maximize their potential during this tenure at MIT.

August 29th:

On this day in 1931, Stelios Kazantzidis, the Greek singer, was born in Nea Ionia, Athens. Considered by many as the most prolific Greek singer of all time, Kazantzidis used his expressive vocal interpretations to capture the joys, as well as the melancholies, of Greeks everywhere – especially those in the working class and emigrants in the Greek diaspora.

He had little formal education and began singing professionally in 1950. Although he made scores of recordings in his career, he did not fare well during the military junta (1967-74) and made no recordings between 1975 and 1987.

Kazantzidis made a comeback to a new generation of fans in the 1990s. It has been said that during his musical career, he recorded more than 1,500 songs. His death in 2001, after a long battle with cancer, was an emotional event for both Greece and its diaspora. He is viewed as the most stirring singer of Laiko music and worked with many of Greece’s most renowned composers and writers throughout his career and life.