First publisjhed in Kathimerini 31 May 2003
FOO YUN CHEE
Greece yesterday paid tribute to 10 individuals, Greeks and foreigners, who, through their works, have helped increase awareness of the country, its culture and peculiarities. The 10 individuals, including writers, a violinist, a director, an entertainer, a composer, a stage designer and a singer follow a path first laid out by the ancient poet Homer, Ioannis Patellis, head of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) said.
“Homer was the first to advertise the attractions of our country to the outside world,” he said. Contemporary figures such as composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, author Nikos Kazantzakis, opera singers Maria Callas and Agnes Baltsa and the legendary Melina Mercouri, through their achievements, have further continued the tradition of promoting Greece, he said.
Patellis said the success of these well-known personalities in their respective fields had been invaluable in promoting Greece as a tourist destination. The 10 individuals singled out this year have played an equally effective role in raising Greece’s profile abroad, he said. Starting this year, the GNTO intends to honor such individuals with a distinction aptly named Zeus Xenios (god of hospitality). The first Zeus Xenios awards were yesterday bestowed upon French-born Greek TV presenter Nikos Aliagas, Briton Patrick Leigh Fermor (who joined Greeks in fighting the German occupation during World War II and stayed on), Russian doctor of literature and translator of Greek poetry Mikhail Gasparov, Greek violin prodigy Leonidas Kavakos, Greek music composer Periklis Koukos, Greek singer Vicky Leandros, film director John Madden, Greek artist Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki, Greek stage designer Nikos Petropoulos and Hollywood director-cum-actress Nia Vardalos.