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Letter from Athens: Sailing Through the Sewer of the Hellenic Sailing Federation

Sofia Bekatorou, a gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, made some big waves when she said she was sexually assaulted in a hotel room by a high-ranking official of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) in 1998, when she was 21 years old, but there’s barely a ripple now about it.

“I achieved most of my country’s distinctions in sailing but have lost the most precious value of my personality: loving myself,” Bekatorou said in January ,2021, adding she didn’t report it because it would ruin her career and hurt the Greek sailing team.

Aristeidis Adamopoulos stepped down as Vice-President of the federation soon after the allegations were made, denying any wrongdoing. He said he quit because of the negative publicity against the HSF, a group which couldn’t buy good publicity because it’s so sordid and morally corrupt.

Keelhauling is too good for some of the people who run the federation for their own pleasure and power, because they don’t care about the athletes except as sexual objects or to live vicariously through a winner’s exploits before exploiting them.

Bekatorou revealed the rotten soul of the HSF, but apart from Adamopoulos stepping down – no charges were brought because the statute of limitations on defiling a woman had passed – nothing happened to any bad guys just as it almost never does in Greece.

She and Greece’s other sailors didn’t realize the real sharks were on the land, and when it came to some of the men at the HSF, it wasn’t a fin that was popping up in the water.

But that’s how it is at sports agencies which are peopled by people whose athletic endeavors extend to running for free lunches. Not enough bad can happen to them – but nothing will.

After she made her accusation, other cases began being named – or not named – and her fellow Olympian Nikos Kaklamanakis told local TV that he was aware of at least one other case in the sailing world.

At the same time, Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis admitted that he had been told similar stories by athletes in confidence, said POLITICO. The key word here is confidence instead of public because all the names should have come out – but never will.

Bekatorou’s courage led two board members of the HSF to quit over the federation’s attempt to downplay sexual assault, doubtlessly believing that female athletes, and perhaps some of the males, are playthings who want it.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation also suspended its support of the agency which needs all the help it can get, but the scandals will be forgotten in a world where the international soccer ruling body exists for bribery and sponsors ignore human rights if sports can bring them money.

Bekatorou gave her country some glory at the Athens Olympics where Kaklamanis, who won gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and silver in Athens, carried out the torch for the opening ceremony, but he should have gone straight to the HSF and burned it down.

Sex is at the heart of all this lewdness and her story has been overshadowed by others in Greece, including a 75-year-old lawyer convicted of raping a pre-teen girl and being sentenced to, well, nothing – his 10-year jail sentence was to be served at home and suspended during an appeal.

But wait, there’s more from the sailing world of Greece that tops that. Another sailing coach, Triantafyllos Apostolou in June, 2022 was acquitted of the serial rape of a girl then 11 – his student – but convicted of sexual abuse.

Some legal mind out there has to explain how repeatedly raping an 11-year-old isn’t serial rape, and his brilliant defense is that it was consensual – first he said Platonic – and that they were going to be married one day.

He escaped conviction on the more serious charges after four jurors voted against it despite a prosecutor saying he was guilty, so since it wasn’t their daughter, it didn’t really count.

Apostolou pleaded not guilty, and was quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying: “It happened several times,” but said he intended to marry the 11-year-old and that the families were aware of their relationship.

The victim, now 21, properly wasn’t named to spare her further agony and is now a prominent member of Greece’s national sailing team which is overseen by – you guessed it, the HSF.

Kaklamanakis, who accused the HSF of corruption and mismanagement in testimony to a parliamentary committee looking into sports violence and match-fixing, was sued by the authority, which wanted 100,000 euros ($103,505) damages.

A Greek court sided with him and said there was “no evidence” he wanted to defame HSF which has already been defamed by its own hand. It was ordered instead to pay his legal costs of 2,000 euros ($2006).

Now the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) that has done next to nothing to help Greece’s elite athletes has taken a page out of the HSF Handbook and said sailor Vasileia Karachaliou won’t be allowed to represent Portugal at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, or shift nationality.

She wanted to sail for Portugal because she said she was disenchanted with HOC and the national sailing federation. Advice to her: don’t go to an HOC official’s hotel room for a consultation.

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