A picture from the inauguration of a Sports Center on Crete went viral for a good reason and stirred the Greek society that expressed anger and outrage over the exclusion of a person with disabilities from a blessing ceremony.stirred the Greek society. The Sports Minister who awas present at the ceremony had to admits “it was a mistake.
The picture shows a podium with several priests on it who perform a blessing for the sports center. A group of local sports officials as well as the Sport Minister Lefteris Avgenakis follow the procedure with deep devotion.
In front of the podium, on the ground is a man on a wheelchair. The man is the president of the Greek Paralympics Committee, Giorgos Kapellakis, a winner of several medals including a Gold.
It is not clear whether also other athletes are excluded from a special place on the provisional podium which is apparently only for the elected and non-elected blessed ones: officials & ministers and clergymen.
All males, of course.
It turned out afterwards that the organizers had invited the GPC president but they did not bother to arrange a ramp so that Kapellakis could also access with his wheelchair the ‘blessed podium.
Minister Avgenakis who saw his photo opportunity overshadowed, posted on his social media account on Thursday that “it was a mistake I’m committing myself that it will not happen again.” The Minister also quoted Kapellakis who praised the minister for showing respect to athletes with disabilities.
However, Greeks on Tiwtter and other social media did not share this point of view.
Όταν καλείς τον παραολυμπιονίκη, αλλά δεν το νιώθεις. pic.twitter.com/13xPdsVbYr
— ConstantinosAlexacos (@constantnos) June 16, 2022
“When you invite a paralympic winner, but you don’t feel it.”
Αυτή δεν είναι απλώς μια φωτογραφία εγκαινίων, είναι η απεικόνιση της χώρας. Στην εξέδρα που στήθηκε για την τελετή εγκαινίων του Εθνικού Κέντρου Παράκτιων Αθλημάτων βρίσκουν χώρο μόνο παπάδες και χαρτογιακάδες. Ο αθλητής είναι από κάτω. Ο παραολυμπιονίκης δεν χωρούσε στην 1/2 pic.twitter.com/SxyifJoNdg
— Κωνσταντίνος Μαρκέτος (@marketosk) June 15, 2022
“This is not just an inauguration photo, it is a depiction of the country. Only priests and officials find space on the podium set up for the opening ceremony of the National Center for Coastal Sports. The athlete is on the ground. The Paralympian did not fit in their platform, in their frame, in their lights. Maybe if he was better known to the general public, with more followers on Instagram he would fit. Until then, it will only fit in the posts and messages every December 3rd for the International Day of People with Disabilities.
Τον ράντισε με αγιασμό όμως. pic.twitter.com/mhrRpmm4zz
— Ιερώνυμος boss (@JeronymoBoss2) June 15, 2022
“But he was blessed with the holy water,” noted ironically another Greek.
Another user proposed they all had to be down, on the ground, or carry the wheelchair up on the podium.
Σήμερα δεν είναι 3 Δεκεμβρίου, δεν είναι «Παγκόσμια Ημέρα Ατόμων με Αναπηρία». Δεν ποστάρουμε με θέρμη «όλοι διαφορετικοί, όλοι ίσοι». Γιατί αυτό αποδεικνύεται στην πράξη. Και για την πράξη έχουμε πολύ δρόμο ακόμα. pic.twitter.com/TPUlCyWDI3
— Μανώλης Χριστοδουλάκης (@Manolis_Chr) June 16, 2022
“Today is not December 3, it’s not “International Day of People with Disabilities. We don’t zealously post ‘all different, all equal’,” posted the secretary of PASOK-KINAL.
Εικόνα ντροπής. Ο κ. Αυγενάκης προφανώς δεν έχει κανένα άγχος για τα ζητήματα προσβασιμότητας. Θα μπορούσε τουλάχιστον να μην προσβάλει με αυτό τον βίαιο τρόπο έναν συμπολίτη μας. Θεσμική υποχρέωση όλων μας η μηδενική ανοχή σε πρακτικές αποκλεισμού. pic.twitter.com/tOKG36mdyU
— Νάσος Ηλιόπουλος (@n_iliopoulos) June 15, 2022
“Picture of shame. Mr. Avgenakis obviously has no worries about accessibility issues. It could at least not offend our fellow citizen in this violent way. An institutional obligation of all of us is zero tolerance for exclusionary practices,” posted SYRIZA spokesman.
Fact is: hadn’t it be for outrage on the picture going viral on Greek internet, the Sports Minister would not have even noticed that something was wrong.
And he did not notice, indeed, during the ceremony in Heraklio, Crete on Wendesday.
A political career in Greece is built on photo opportunities and these cannot be overshadowed by a missing ramp or something, right?