A sound mind in a sound body

‘A sound mind in a sound body’ is the English translation of a famous quotation by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales (Miletus, 624 – 546 BC), demonstrating the close links between physical exercise, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life.

I had the opportunity to get involved in the organisation of two exciting sport events by the British Embassy Athens in the past two months, each within different contexts but still with important similarities.  Apart from building up our fitness levels, both events were successful in their own respect, in terms of key messages, participation numbers and the amount of publicity they attracted.

Sport Relief Charity Run took place on Sunday 18 March at Alsos Sygrou Park, a venue with historical significance for Athens as its 97 hectare estate was bequeathed to the city more than 80 years ago by Iphigenia Syngrou for the purpose of “training good farmers and gardeners”, with the condition that no roads should be built within the area.

More than 300 people participated, all coming from a broad range of ages, nationalities and fitness levels. An extra feel-good factor was the fantastic sunshine, which made the run in the blossoming park even more enjoyable – and decorated some of us with the first suntan marks of the year.

On the Sunday at 10 am sharp, runners and walkers gathered at the starting line waiting for the sound of the hooter, which was held by the British Ambassador Dr David Landsman. And at this point I should mention the important role of our partners, the hashers , xpatathens.com, English schools, expat sports associations and of course skai.gr for supporting our comms efforts and spreading the word to expat communities and our local audience.

At the end of the run we were all happy to count donations amounting to almost 2000 euros, which essentially made Sport Relief Athens 2012 a GREAT success. The event’s beneficiary organisation was NGO ‘ The Smile of the Child’, a registered non-profit, non-governmental organisation since 1996, targeting the serious problems of children in-need living in Greece.

‘Running for charity’ is not as frequently used for fundraising in Greece, as it is the case in the UK.  There is no Greek equivalent organisation to Sport Relief and one could say that the British Embassy paved the way for more such events in the future. And we were definitely not alone on this one as Sport Relief went global for the first time with British diplomatic staff in almost 70 countries joining in the UK-based Sport Relief campaign by running a mile to raise money for deserving charities.

Shortly after that, and in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we could see an exciting Olympic milestone getting closer and closer. ‘Another opportunity for a good run’ one could think but this time organised at the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.

In order to mark the day,  10 brave members of British Embassy staff were put to the challenge of running (at least) 100 metres at Kalimarmaron Stadium, wearing their 100 days to go branded t-shirts.That was all in a cold rainy Wednesday morning, with the weather adding a British flavour to our activity. The British Embassy in Athens joined another 99 British missions around the world to mark to 100 days to go before the UK starts the celebrations.

Indeed, the choice of venue could not have been more appropriate than the Kalimarmaron stadium. It is an impressive historic site at the centre of Athens, reconstructed in 1896 for the organisation of the first modern Olympic Games and will also be the location for the official ceremony to hand over the Olympic Flame to London 2012 on 17 May.

The next day the Olympic Flame will travel to the UK, flying from Athens on a special liveried plane and will then start its journey on the Torch Relay across the UK.  Everyone in Athens on that date is welcome to attend the handover ceremony at the Kallimarmaron and celebrate with us the beginning of the British leg of the Olympic torch relay. More on London 2012 soon, so keep watching this space.

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