NEW YORK – Pyrros Dimas, the most decorated Greek athlete in the modern Olympics with three gold medals and one bronze, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the champion of Greek issues in the U.S. Congress, will headline the Panepirotic Federation of America convention to be held in Clearwater, FL, February 21-24.
Dimas, who was born in Himara in Northern Epiros, is considered the greatest weightlifter of all time, having been three times World Champion and won three Olympic gold medals for Greece. In his fourth Olympiad, a severe knee injury notwithstanding, he won a bronze medal before retiring to serve a term in the Greek Parliament, where he spoke out for protection of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania. He currently serves as technical director of the USA weightlifting team preparing for the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2007, is chairman of the 130-member Congressional Hellenic Caucus, which supports issues of concern to Greek Americans. Under the leadership of Rep. Bilirakis, whose wife Eva hails from Northern Epiros, the Hellenic caucus has taken strong stands in support of basic human rights for the Greek minority in Albania, an end to the occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkey, protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and re-opening of the Halki School in Constantinople.
“We are extremely pleased and very proud to have such distinguished individuals as Pyrros Dimas and Congressman Bilirakis, who both have strong ties to Epiros, be the main speakers at our convention,” said author Nicholas Gage, the president of the Panepirotic Federation of American for the past five years.
He said other distinguished guests attending the convention will be Chris Alahouzos, the mayor of Tarpon Springs; Konstantina Beziani, the executive director of the State Committee for Minorities in Albania, and two prominent political leaders from Northern Epiros— Achileas Desikas, the mayor of Dropoli, and Leonidas Christou, the mayor of Foiniki.
Many letters have been received from religious and political leaders for the success of the convention, according to Mr. Gage, including one from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America. His Eminence wrote in part: “I hope and pray that your aim be realized of bringing investments and tourism to free Epiros and to draw attention to the plight of ethnic Greeks in Northern Epiros. May your prayers be fulfilled to secure for them equality and justice at last.”
The convention will be held at the Edge Hotel, a new resort on Clearwater Beach, and will culminate with a gala dinner dance on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Matheos Hall of Holy Trinity Church. The night before a welcome reception will be held for all delegates and guests at the Clipper Cove Yacht Club, a short distance from the hotel.
All arrangements for the convention are being directed by the Society of Epirotes of Florida led by Nora Mihopoulos, a native of Himara in Northern Epiros.