By Catherine Tsounis, Contributing Editor
For the past 50 years, the Greek American community has been elevated through the accomplishments of the shipowners. Stavros Spyros (3 July 1909 – 16 April 1996) was a multi-billionaire Greek shipping tycoon. Starting in 1952, he had the world’s biggest supertankers built for his fleet. Propelled by both the Suez Crisis and an increasing demand for oil, he and rival Aristotle Onassis became giants in global petroleum shipping.1 He had scandals, marrying two sisters, and ruthless business dealings along with Onassis
Stavros Niarchos decided to give back to Greece with his Stavros Niarchos Park on the outskirts of Athens at Kallithea. My last evening’s touring in June 2017 was at the Stavros Niarchos Park with my old friends from the late 1970’s, Erica Haralambithou, Doris Christopoulou, Erica was our guide at an Archdiocese Symposium program in 1977. We have an active friendship. Her Father, Dr. Haralambithou, was President of the Maraslios Pedagogical Academy (a 2-year Community College of Pedagogy), in Athens during the 1960’s. Her mother was a medical doctor. Doris was a trained opera singer married to the late Legislator Mr. Christopoulou. Her daughter, Ioli, received her Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
The Stavros Niarchos Park is a green space in Athens.pe. It looks like Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, except modern with a library, auditorium for operas, computer section and modern library that was being developed in 2017. Getting to the Park is very difficult with public transportation. He/she needs a taxi, that can cost 50+ euros from Athens center or a friend with a car. I was only able to get there because of our friends’ car transportation.
Seeing the Greek flag flying inspired hope for the future. The Niarchos Foundation is financing all costs because of the economic condition. Opera was being hosted. A display of the complex like that in the Queens Museum of Flushing Meadow Park was displayed. A Pool of water with jets gave us a feeling of being at the sea. We arrived in time for our free tour. The guide was excellent speaking in Greek and English. We were given an in-depth look of who, what, why and so what questions of the Stavros Niarchos Park. Features I noticed included: an area for parking bikes; flowering bushes in excellent landscaping; modern multilevel interior floors that were spotless as if no one ever walked into the area; auditorium; library with computers, study and meeting rooms; technical and audio studio; bust of Spyros Niarchos, roof top platform to take photos of Athens, Olympic Stadium and the Mediterranean Sea to the West and the 1896 Olympic Breal cup of Spiro Louis.
I was interested in the Bréal’s Cup. is the trophy awarded to Spyros Louis, the Marathon winner at the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens, in 1896. The Cup was designed by French philhellene Michel Bréal, who had the original idea to include a Marathon race in the Olympic Games.
The Cup is made of pure silver. On the top part of the Cup there is the inscription “OLYMPIC GAMES 1896, MARATHON TROPHY DONATED BY MICHAEL BREAL”. The remaining surface of the Cup had a relief decoration depicting birds and aquatic plants, which were known to exist in the swamp lands of Marathon in ancient times. With this reference, Breal wanted to give the Cup a symbolic significance and connect the ancient Olympic Games with the modern ones. Today, the Cup belongs to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which acquired it at an auction held on April 18, 2012 by Christie’s in London. A delegation from the Municipality of Amarousion, the birthplace of Spyros Louis, attended and bid in the auction. The Cup was sold by the grandson of Spyros Louis, who has the same name.2
Their website, that is performing an excellent public relations campaign says “The Greek National Opera (GNO) ( www.nationalopera.gr ) has already been transferred in its new premises at SNFCC, inaugurating a new era in its multi-year history. Within the new facilities it is possible for the GNO to further expand its multifaceted activities as an artistic and educational organization, that span Opera, Ballet, experimental projects, children’s performances and educational programs, as well as the preparation of the next generation of dancers and socially beneficial actions. The Stavros Niarchos Hall, with the unparalleled acoustics, aesthetics and unique technical specifications, and the Alternative Stage, a versatile space for experimentation and research, alongside the state-of-the-art auxiliary spaces, provide unlimited possibilities to the GNO rendering it able to play an ever more important role in the artistic scene of the country.
The new 28,000 m2 (301,000 sq. ft.) auditorium is an architectural jewel, designed to enhance the opera experience for patrons and artists alike. Its world-class acoustics, mechanical capabilities, flexible staging, and innate beauty position it for immediate entry into the world opera circuit, ready to play host to the most technically demanding operas, international multimedia art productions, and formidable solo vocalists.
The auditorium is in par with the best European opera houses, and its multiple stages configuration allows for efficient scene changes and the staging of complicated productions. The comfort of the 1,400-seat main auditorium is being equaled in the backstage dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces, and the technical capabilities extend to the scenic design and costume shops.”3
The new building for the National Library of Greece (NLG) ( http://transition.nlg.gr/ ) will modernize an institution founded in 1832, allowing it to strengthen its research role while expanding, at the same time, its focus from an exclusive research facility to an all-inclusive public resource. In its new and enlarged role, the Library will support patrons of all ages and education—from academic researchers to children and young adults destined to become the next generation of users.
Within its new premises, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the entrance to the Library leads into a large open lobby that provides an immediate visual orientation to all the organization’s functions. The NLG Public Library Section, bolstered by a significant book collection and other media, will include separate areas for adults, teenagers, and children and will offer a wide range of educational and cultural programs. …4
A free tour involves continuous walking down the Stavros Niarchos Park and the use of stairs. Register at https://www.snfcc.org/visitors-center/guided-tours-for-groups-at-the-snfcc/tours-at-the-stavros-niarchos-park/.