CALGARY, ALBERTA – Greek Olympic champion and legend in weightlifting Pyrros Dimas was welcomed with enthusiasm and emotion at the first event in Western Canada co-hosted by The Hellenic Initiative Canada and the Greek Community of Calgary on October 2.
The event featured the screening of a documentary by Greek-Canadian director Panagiotis Yannitsos titled Freedom Besieged: Unshackling the Youth of Greece about the impact of the financial crisis on Greek youth and the search for creative ways out. In an effort to build the new generation's lost communication bridge in Greece with the world around them, the documentary captures individual and collective initiatives that create hope for the future. At the same time, it is targeting experts, scientists and politicians to document the solutions they offer - from intellectual Noam Chomsky to communications expert Peter Economides.
During the post-crisis debate on film and Greece that followed the screening, the filmmaker noted that his intention was to allow all voices to be heard, whether that was the voice of 15 year-old boy or Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. A special role in the film was played by the Greek-Canadian volunteer coach of Kiveri Basketball Camp, John Karkalatos, and athletes including George Karagounis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Pyrros Dimas, who have successfully sparked national pride and inspired young Greeks of the diaspora.
The four-time Olympic medalist, Dimas received the admiration of the young students at the Calgary Greek Community School, whose evening classes he attended before the event. The children sing the national anthem and Dimas visited them in their classrooms. During the discussion, he also talked about how he sees Greece from Chicago, where he is currently working as Technical Director for the U.S. weightlifting team. Dimas said that he sees Greece as "more beautiful but [still] with problems.” Dimas was involved in politics and commented that he "never regretted taking a stand" as in 2012 he felt compelled to join the then-government's effort to help the country, adopting a non-negotiable stance against racism and a bold position in favor of Greece's European future in the 2015 referendum.
A special highlight of the event was when Dimas was awarded a white cowboy hat at the famous White Hat Ceremony by Calgary City authorities for its distinguished visitors, as an indication of the famous Western hospitality. Dimas was also awarded a gold wreath from THI Canada. The president of the organization, Alexander Georgiadis, noted that Greece may have turned a page, but the social and economic problems created by the crisis remain intense, and invited attendees to be inspired by the example of their compatriot John Karkalatos to do what they can to help Greece’s recovery.
It is noted that all the proceeds of the event will be donated to the SOS Children's Villages Babies Home in Greece. Thomas Bauer, President and CEO of SOS Children's Villages of Canada, expressed his gratitude and talked about the important social work of the charity in Greece, Canada, and worldwide. Dimas noted that he has been a supporter of SOS Children's Villages Greece since the beginning of his athletic career in Greece and as their ambassador knows firsthand the importance of the social service they offer, especially in times of crisis, when many families no longer have the financial means to provide even the basic necessities for their children.
THI Canada is the latest addition to The Hellenic Initiative's global network. It was founded in the summer of 2016 to add the contribution of Canada and its historic Greek community to the worldwide effort of the diaspora and philhellenes to assist Greece in its recovery from the unprecedented financial crisis.
The Greek Community of Calgary was founded 62 years ago, and this year it is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Dimitrios. The community serves the cultural and religious needs of approximately 7,000 Greek-speaking residents.
More information about The Hellenic Initiative Canada is available online: https://ca.thehellenicinitiative.org/