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This Week in History: August 6th to 12th

AUGUST 7TH:

On this day in 1982, Vasileios Spanoulis, the former Greek professional basketball player, was born in Larissa, Greece. Most of Spanoulis’ career was been spent playing in the Greek league, but he also had a brief stint with the Houston Rockets of the NBA. During the 2006-07 season, Spanoulis passed on his former team Panathinaikos’ (higher salary) offer to play for them for a chance to play in the NBA. After making the Rockets’ rotation, he had a falling out with the Rockets’ coach after he had benched him for playing poorly. He was eventually traded by the Rockets to the San Antonio Spurs who ultimately released him a little over a month after he joined the team. This gave Spanouli the chance he wanted: to return to Greece to play for Panathinaikos Athens. Spanoulis played for Panathinaikos until 2010 and then signed with Olympiacos. It has been reported that Spanoulis was the first Greek-born player to play for the Rockets and was the first Greek-born player in the NBA.

AUGUST 10TH:

On this day in 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed. This Treaty, which was ultimately replaced with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, was a post-World War I pact between the victorious Allied powers (excluding the United States and the USSR) and the representatives of the government of Turkey. The Treaty effectively abolished the Ottoman Empire and provided for an independent Armenia, an autonomous Kurdistan, and for a Greek presence in eastern Thrace. Smyrna and its environs were also placed under Greek administration pending a plebiscite to determine its permanent status. The Treaty was accepted by the government of Sultan Mehmed Vahdettin VI (Constantinople) but was ultimately rejected by the new rival Turkish nationalist regime of Kemal Ataturk (Ankara). Ataturk had negotiated a separate treaty with the USSR and his subsequent victories against the Greeks during what Turkey calls its War of Independence forced the Allies to negotiate a new treaty in 1923 (the Treaty of Lausanne) which replaced the Treaty of Sevres.

AUGUST 13TH:

On this day in 2004, the Summer Olympics began in Athens – with the motto Welcome Home. The 2004 Olympics marked the return of the Games to the city where they began. Having previously hosted the Olympics in 1896, Athens became one of only four cities to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games on two separate occasions at the time (together with Paris, London, and Los Angeles). The Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, commonly known as Athens 2004, was a premier international multi-sport event. The Games saw 10,625 athletes compete – accompanied by over 5,500 team officials from 201 countries. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports. The 2004 Summer Games were hailed as "unforgettable, dream games" by IOC President Jacques Rogge, and left Athens with a significantly improved infrastructure, including a new airport, ring road, and subway system. The 2004 Olympics were generally deemed to be a success, with a rising standard of competition amongst nations across the world. The final medal tally was led by the United States, followed by China and Russia with the host Greece at 15th place. Several world and Olympic records were broken during these Games.

AUGUST 16TH:

On this day in 1960, the Republic of Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom after the long and bloody anti-British campaign by the Greek-Cypriot EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), a guerilla group which desired political union (enosis) with Greece. The independence agreement signed by Britain, Greece, and Turkey stated that Britain would retain sovereignty over two military bases in the south and that the three countries guaranteed the new republic its independence. Archbishop Makarios III, a charismatic religious and political leader, was elected the first president of independent Cyprus. In 1961, it became the 99th member of the United Nations. Also on this day in 1943, the population of the village of Kommeno in Western Greece was massacred by the Nazis. During the Axis Occupation of Greece during World War II, the village was torched and 317 of its inhabitants were executed indiscriminately (men, women, and children – 74 of them under the age of 10). Thankfully, almost half of the village’s population managed to escape by swimming across the Arachthos river. Today, the names of the 317 villagers who were killed are recorded on a marble monument in the village’s main square.

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