Greece 2004: Sun and ruins

The The Future Foundation had released an article on Greece which finally has been published by The Independent on May 23rd, 2004:

Greece is on the warm side, no question. You can get there in about two hours, there are lots of packages and it’s not wildly expensive. And this year they’re doing the Olympics, one of those national Great Leap Forward things.

But everyone’s as anxious about Greece getting the Olympic Village built in time as they might have been about Bobby Acropolis having his new hotel in Rhodes finished when they’d got 200 couples from Blackburn booked.

Is Greece in Europe? On every conventional snobbish European criterion it sort of is. From Ancient Greece on – what middle-class baby-boomer didn’t have “the Glory that was Greece” in the childhood kit, along with the key classic translations in those purple Penguins – it seemed to hit the cultural buttons. And Robert Graves with his olives and ouzo was a pre-Tuscany ad for ex-pats.

But the reality of post-war Greece – the dodgy politics, the never-quite- made-it economy, and the food – made you wonder whether it was really in Europe or somewhere altogether hairier. Individual Greeks – Golden Greek entrepreneurs on their yachts and my enterprising friends in Wood Green – seemed modern and adaptable, but overwhelmingly they were somewhere else, runaways.

There are monographs about this sort of thing (“The Greek Paradox: promise vs performance” sums it up). And the clever people at the Future Foundation, re-thinking European alignments post-accession, seem to think Greece is a problem; whichever way they segment Europe, Greece is an oddity, out there on its own, a funny single-country sector.

The Greek National Tourist Office commercial does all the usual stuff, beaches and amphitheatres, with shafts of sunlight everywhere. They’re on about having the most sunshine in Europe, combined with silly stuff about how long people stand amazed at ancient sites or how quickly they forget work when they dive off a white boat into blue-green water. “Your best time yet,” they say. The re-branding is calling it Greece 2004, meaning Olympic Greece.

It isn’t enough, in fact it’s positively anxious-making. They should be concentrating on something a bit less commoditised than sun and ancient ruins.