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Athens News presents:

Greece 2012: The winners & losers

04. January 2012. | 08:01

Author: Thrasy Petropoulos, Paris Ayiomamitis, Kathy Tzilivakis, Helen Iatrou, Despina Pavlaki, Damian Mac Con Uladh, Costas Papachlimintzo

After reporting on a turbulent year for Greece and the world at large, the Athens News staff choose who they believe were the lucky few to get what they wanted - and those whose star has fallen

After reporting on a turbulent year for Greece and the world at large, the Athens News staff choose who they believe were the lucky few to get what they wanted - and those whose star has fallen

Winners


The Indignants of Syntagma Square

Many weren’t convinced about the motives of the protesters who pitched their tents in central Athens in the summer months and railed against all Greek politicians past and present. Truth be told, their cause fizzled long before that of the Spanish indignados - on whom the movement was based - but it was the media attention they attracted and their brand of direct democracy at the doorstep of parliament that led to then prime minister George Papandreou’s first attempt to form a coalition government, after he feared that he had lost the support of his own politicians and risked losing a key memorandum vote. Thrasy Petropoulos

The Arab street

The uprising of peoples across the Arab world was undoubtedly the most momentous event in 2011. The moral and political repercussions of the uprisings will reverberate in the years to come. The unthinkable became a reality as the firmly entrenched, despotic regimes were pushed aside, one by one, a testimony to the new social media-driven global culture. Free access to information - courtesy of the internet revolution - is turning the tables on once seemingly invincible despots. And this time there were no ideological banners, just people from all walks of life finally standing up to the mediaeval feudalism pursued by authoritarian regimes. Paris Ayiomamitis

The blog baroness

Greek American Arianna Huffington (nee Stasinopoulou) made it big in the media industry at a time when some of the world’s oldest and most respected publications are struggling. She is the founder of the popular, money-making Huffington Post - a site she sold to AOL for a whopping $315m (€300m in cash and 15m in stock) in February. Today, she is president editor-in-chief of all of AOL’s content. She has been named in Forbes list of most influential women in the media. Kathy Tzilivakis

Special Olympics participants and volunteers

It was a treat that only the few who attended any of the sporting events across Athens during this summer’s Athens Special Olympics could fully understand: that true sportsmanship exists beyond the advertising-fuelled, multibillion sports industry. The Special Olympics brought 7,000 athletes, 2,500 coaches and 40,000 family members from 180 countries to Greece, and over 20,000 volunteers were on hand to assist them. Many of the athletes paid their own fares, thanks to fundraising in their communities. The Games hammered home the lesson that where there’s a will, there’s a way - a message that’s badly needed in our troubled times. Damian Mac Con Uladh

Tina Birbili, from Athens to Paris

Losing your job in Greece and finding another, better paid and less stressful, in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe - now that’s what I call good fortune. Tina Birbili, without having to climb Pasok’s political ladder or face the electorate, was chosen by George Papandreou in 2009 to be the environment minister. In June 2011 - at a time when the Indignants were occupying Syntagma Square in Athens and politicians were having a hard time walking in the streets or even eating at a taverna - Birbili was removed from her post and appointed Greece’s permanent representative to the OECD in Paris. Costas Papachlimintzos

Happy 90th, Iris Apfel

This year marked former textile designer Iris Apfel’s 90th birthday and, possibly, the height of her fame, as she has been proclaimed the oldest fashionista in the world, the subject of museum exhibitions, fashion campaigns, a coffee-table book and even an upcoming documentary by non-fiction heavyweight Albert Maysles. But, most importantly, she is single-handedly responsible for making old age seem cool. “I’m a geriatric starlet, my dear, don’t you know?” she recently said in a New York Times interview. Yes you are! Despina Pavlaki

Hellene in the true sense of the word


Michael Cacoyannis died in July, but not before the outspoken, globally admired filmmaker, stage and opera director and screenwriter fashioned a legacy of immense proportions. The figure behind the quintessential Stella and Zorba the Greek, Cyprus-born Cacoyannis remained professionally and personally active throughout his 90 years. Laid to rest at the world-class, nonprofit arts foundation that he established in Athens in 2003, the multi-award winning creator certainly would have been smiling considering that he achieved his goals: to bring the world closer to Greek art and Greek art to the world, and, more specifically, to educate local youth about the visual and performing arts in inventive way. Helen Iatrou

Losers

Four children in two days

On December 21, Father Antonios, who runs the Kivotos charity for impoverished children, discovered two four-year-old boys (from different mothers) abandoned at his front door. The previous days, he had opened the door to find a baby and a two-year-old boy. The state has granted the Orthodox priest, who has dedicated his life to helping disadvantaged children, guardianship rights to 30 children whose parents are destitute. The charity also helps look after some 400 other boys and girls after school before they return home each night. Some 500 Kivotos volunteers help feed and bathe the children daily. However, the charity is not set up to lodge abandoned children. Thrasy Petropoulos

Antonis Samaras

The New Democracy leader has flushed his credibility down the drain with his stance throughout the debt crisis. With financial disaster looming, he - initially - obstinately refused to agree to any political consensus with Pasok unless it ensured that it would give him the prime minister’s seat. He finally agreed to an interim government after coming under immense pressure from the country’s lenders and the threat of Greece getting kicked out of the euro. Samaras put his personal ambitions above the interests of the country and he is now trying his best to distance himself from the Papademos government lest he is burdened with the blame for unpopular austerity measures. Paris Ayiomamitis

The unemployed Greek

Nearly 900,000 of them. That’s how many Greeks are now officially out of work. Unemployment in Greece is rising by the day. It rose to a record high of 17.7 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Jobless rates are especially high among women and university graduates under the age of 30, as well as workers in manufacturing and construction. And with no job growth foreseen in the future, the debt-stricken economy is forcing them to leave. Kathy Tzilivakis

Joanna Despotopoulou, Athens Special Olympics organiser

It should have been an event to put the needs of those with intellectual disability to the forefront, but the outrageously expensive Athens Special Olympics served to torpedo that noble goal. With a budget of around 70m euros, the Athens Games cost twice as much more to stage than those in Ireland and Shanghai in 2003 and 2007, respectively, leaving many citizens wondering why they came to Athens at all. The sight of athletes left sitting on the hard steps of the Kallimarmaro stadium for hours while bigwigs, celebrities and attention seekers rested their behinds on cushions at the opening and closing ceremonies said it all.
Damian Mac Con Uladh

Stavros Lambrinidis’ losing hand

Stavros Lambrinidis’ political future seemed very promising. He was twice elected as a member of the European Parliament with Pasok and, in July 2009, was elected deputy speaker of the assembly. In the government reshuffle of June 2009, George Papandreou appointed him foreign minister. He only served for five months before becoming one of the few Pasok cabinet members to be replaced. And now what? Costas Papachlimintzos

Sobering times for John Galliano

The fashion industry does have a way of chewing people up and spitting them out, but John Galliano dug his own grave this year. The 50-year-old designer, heading the house of Dior for a stunning 400,000 euros a month, apparently let booze and plastic surgery get to his head. Drunk at his favourite bar, he claimed he “loved Hitler” before launching a full-on antisemitic attack against two unsuspecting diners, which got him fired but didn’t get him sober. At least not yet. Despina Pavlaki

It’s just small change for Lakis

Fashion designer and importer Lakis Gavalas was arrested by the financial police after allegedly failing to pay 1.5m euros’ worth of VAT. In a recent televised interview, the Mykonos devotee said that the state was quite welcome to confiscate his sprawling headquarters in the nouveau-riche eastern Attica suburb of Kantza and convert it into a hospital. The next minute he quipped that the money he owes isn’t enough to help the country recover. Meanwhile, Gavalas continues to happily prance across our television screens in a reality makeover show targeting flair-deficient men. Surely he asked if he could keep the handcuffs as a souvenir. Helen Iatrou

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