LONDON – Greek Olympic chiefs insist that the country’s financial crisis will not lead to a slimmed-down team being sent to the London Olympics.
“The economic crisis is not reducing the number of the Greek delegation. The athletes that have qualified will all participate,” Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) spokesman Tassos Papachristou told AFP.
He believes that the delegation will number 110 athletes.
This compares to the 151 which attended the last Olympics in Beijing and 431 in 2004 when Greece hosted the Games.
Despite financial problems throughout its history, Greece has never failed to send athletes to any modern Olympics which began in 1896 in Athens.
While the cutbacks of most athletic federations’ budgets has meant poor training facilities and lack of international competition, Greece is still hoping to add to its Olympic medal winning tally.
Since 1896, Greece has won 113 medals (30 gold, 44 silver and 39 bronze).
In the last Games in Beijing, Greece only won four medals (two silver and two bronze) while in 2004 in Athens the Greeks garnered their best medal collection, 16 (six gold, six silver and four bronze).
“We are hoping to gain medals in rowing, judo, gymnastics, athletics and fencing,” Papachristou said.
Perhaps the best chance Greece has of winning an Olympic medal is in the lightweight double sculls men’s rowing competition where Vasilis Polimeros and Nikos Skiathitis have teamed up to win a number of competitions in their class.
The pair won a silver in Beijing and bronze in Athens.
Their female counterparts, Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou are world champions and they too will be looking to gain their first Olympic medal.
The sailing team will consist of nine men and two women, involved in eight categories, and can pull off a surprise medal with the best chance coming from Finn sailor Giannis Mitakis who was the winner of the European title.
In the 470 class, Panayiotis Kambouridis and Stathis Papadopoulos won silver in the world championships.
In judo, Greek medal hopes are high with Beijing gold medallist Ilias Iliadis who continues to impress wining the world championship in 2010 and 2011 in the 90 kg catagory.
In taekwondo, Alexandros Nikolaidis is a good prospect after winning the silver medal twice in the last two Olympic Games in the 80 kg catagory.
“The economic crisis has had an impact on my sports career as we do not have the means that we had for past Olympic Games and we are trying to manage with less,” Nikolaidis said.
Gymnast Vlasios Maras would like to pick up his first Olympic medal after winning the world championship twice and being a five-time European champion on the high bar.
On the female side, Vasiliki Millousi won the beam final at the Olympic test event which qualified her for the London Olympics.
Prospects for medals in athletics look disappointing, with the best chance coming from high jumper Dimitris Chondrokoukis who won the World Indoor Championships with a personal best leap of 2.33 meters.
In swimming, Liverpool-born Spiros Gianniotis is the world champion in the 10 kilometer open water event and a silver medalist in the 5 kilometer open water.
Vaso Vougiouka won gold medal in sabre at the Fencing World Cup held in London in late February and will be the Greek hope for a medal.
As for team sports, Greece will be represented by a good men’s water polo team which gained a berth by beating Canada 10-6 in the pre-Olympic tournament. They finished seventh in the Beijing Olympics.
Missing in London will be the 2011 world champions women’s water polo team which failed to qualify.