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This Week in History: March 18th to 24th

MARCH 18TH:
On this day in 1913, King George I of Greece was assassinated by Alexandros Schinas in the then-recently liberated city of Thessaloniki. King George was a popular and respected figure among his subjects and in the Greek Diaspora. He ascended to the Greek throne in 1864 and married Princess Olga (Romanov dynasty) in 1867. They had eight children: Constantine, George, Alexandra, Nicholas, Maria, Olga, Andrew, and Christopher. Crown Prince Constantine assumed the Greek throne shortly after his father’s death. In the United States, Atlanta Greeks wore black bands as a mark of respect for their dead monarch. New York Greeks were stunned by the news of the assassination of King George and inquired continually at the offices of the Atlantis newspaper for news updates from Greece. King George’s descendants occupied the throne until the military coup d’état of 1967 and eventual restoration of the Republic in 1973.

MARCH 21ST:
On this day in 1920, Manolis Chiotis, the famous singer, composer, and soloist bouzouki player, was born in Thessaloniki. At the age of 14, Chiotis and his family moved to Athens where his father opened a cafe. It was there that Chiotis began his stage career and one year later, he recorded his first song. The German Occupation eventually became a reality and many record companies in Greece shut down. It was after this time that he started to gain much popularity. He became known for blending the popular folk music (laika) and the more modern Greek and international sounds. It is said that Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis took Princess Grace Kelly to one of Chiotis’ shows. Callas told Chiotis that she had been translating the lyrics for the American actress and that she loved them. It was then that Kelly asked Chiotis what the difference was between a bouzouki and an electric guitar. Chiotis said, “Ms. Callas, please explain to Princess Grace that the strings of an electric guitar are vibrated due to electricity, while the song of the strings of a bouzouki come straight from the heart.”

MARCH 22ND:
On this day in 1896, Charilaos Vasilakos of Greece won the first modern marathon in three hours and eighteen minutes at the Panhellenic Games. The main purpose of these Games was to help the country assemble the team that would compete in the first Modern Olympic Games later in the same year. Vasilakos ended up being one of the seventeen athletes to start the Olympic race on April 10, 1896. He finished with the silver medal, behind Spiridon Louis, with a time of three hours and six minutes (as one of only nine finishers). Vasilakos, a man with a reputation for honesty and integrity, went on to become a customs director in the Greek Ministry of Finance. To this day, there are annual marathon races in Olympia that commemorate his memory.

MARCH 24TH:
On this day in 1921, the first Women’s Olympiad (Olympiades Féminines and Jeux Olympiques Féminins), the first international women’s sports event, began in Monte Carlo at the International Sporting Club of Monaco. The Olympiad was a 5-day multi-sport event that was organized by Alice Milliat and Camille Blanc as a response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to include women’s events in the 1924 Olympic Games.

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