ATHENS – While the dominant emotion at the 99th Anniversary AHEPA Supreme Convention is the joy of togetherness after more than a year of social distancing and shutdowns made necessary by the global battle against COVID-19, the string of social events at unique and remarkable venues in the Athens area is building up the sense that the journey to the Hellenic homeland to celebrate the Greek Bicentennial is generating memories for a lifetime.
On Wednesday, July 28 general and legislative sessions will yield to the Convention's climactic event, the AHEPA Family Grand Banquet at the Divani Caravel hotel where Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades will be honored.
ATHLETES AND THEIR FAMILIES SHINE
Sports is one of the key elements in what draws youth to AHEPA and the ways it gives back to the Community and America as a whole. Every year Convention participants `and those following from home' look forward to learning who is inducted into the AHEPA Athletic Hall of Fame at the AHEPA Family Athletic Luncheon. In Athens, the event was Emceed again by Past Supreme Counselor Gregory J. Stamos.
This year's inductees included Cypriot tennis star Baghdatis. Also inducted but not present were Olympic weightlifting champion Pyrros Dimas, former NBA player and executive Kurt Rambis, tennis player and coach Stella Sampras Webster – sister of tennis great Pete Sampras – and TV broadcaster Speros Dedes. Greek Minster of Culture and Sport Lina Mendoni was also honored.
The Harry Agganis Hellenic Athlete Award was given to pro football player Ted Karas III, whose uncle Alex Karas will this year be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Also honored was the family of Stylianos Kyriakides, on the 75ht anniversary of his winning the Boston Marathon against great odds.
Panagiotis Giannakis received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his role on the Greek National Basketball team that won the 1987 European title, defeating the heavily favored Soviet Union in a thriller.
Khaliah Ali, daughter of boxing and civil rights legend Muhammad Ali, was honored – as was her father – with the AHEPA Humanitarian Award for their social activism. She was accompanied by Greek-American and humanitarian advocate Christine Warnke.
Regarding AHEPA business, attention is shifting to the elections of officers that in recent years have featured consensus candidates agreed to in the name of peace and harmony by the Order's two major parties – AHEPA First and New Horizons – but which this year will have a twist. For the first time in a long time, a candidate has emerged outside that process. Lou Katsos, until recently the Governor of District 6 in New York, is challenging Supreme Counselor Lou Atsaves for the position of Supreme Vice President.
While on Tuesday the philanthropic focus was on the AHEPA National Housing Corporation, on Wednesday the Cooley's Anemia Foundation meeting spotlighted the steadfast and noble efforts of Ahepans through the years to overcome the dread disease that is one of the sadder Hellenic realities.
SNFCC – CREATED BY VISIONARIES, A GLIMPSE OF A BRIGHT HELLENIC FUTURE
On Tuesday night, guests were awed by the spectacular views and delighted by the summer breeze during the most unique AHEPA Greek night in years. Held on the upper level terrace of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) on the coast of the Saronic Gulf south of Athens, people were heard to thank AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaides “for ordering the awesome sunset” over the western mountains of Attiki.
Conversations also featured the SNFCC being lauded as a powerful example of well-planned and executed projects emblematic of what is hoped to be the New Greece that will attract international investments and bring back youth lost to brain drain.
The evening at SNFCC was hosted by AHEPA Supreme Treasurer Savas Tsivikos, and its highlight was meant to be the presentation of AHEPA's prestigious Periclean Award to Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, but the press of official business prevented his attendance. Greece's Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulos accepted the award on his behalf.
The presentation of the AHEPA Lifetime Achievement Award to Craig Clawson evoked warm applause from his brothers and sisters in the Order who were enjoying marvelous food and drink as sunset yielded to moonlight and the Acropolis began to glow in the distance.
AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates asked for “a round of applause for AHEPA Hellas District 25 Governor Konstantinos Varsamis for his team's preparations and warm welcome to Ahepans from all over the world.
A surprise guest delighting those who know him from back home was the Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, who praised past and present AHEPA leadership for their contributions to the Greek-American community and strengthening relations between the United States and Greece. Koutras said, “I thank you for what you do for so many years … Ahepans are also ambassadors of Greece,” words echoed by Attiki Regional Governor Dr. Giorgos Patoulis, who called AHEPA “a bright light in the Diaspora, a pillar of Hellenism.”
As he welcomed the guests to the national capital region, Patoulis stretched out his hand towards Faliron Bay where a wonderful new coastal park is coming into being while his listeners noted that the Hellenikon development down the other end of the coast will also help turn the phrase `Athenian Riviera' from a dream bordering on a joke to a proud reality of world-class venues and vistas.