Athens 2004 Olympics
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© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
11 November, 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It truly is a great pleasure to be back in the City of New York, where I spent a few wonderful years as a college student, on such a special occasion and among such distinguished guests. I would like to especially thank the organizers for their kind invitation, but also for putting together this very edifying forum.
Weeks back, when I was told the title of today’s forum, “Greece in a New Era,” I thought I couldn’t agree more with the wording. After all, I wanted to do just that today: I want to introduce you to the Greece of the new era, the Greece of extroversion that, while always remaining the mother of the Ancient Greek Civilization and a place truly blessed with Nature’s best of beauties and Man’s best of spirits, she has also emerged as an important player. And that is because her great recent achievements of international calibre in and since 2004 have unravelled and put flesh to her leading role in energy, the maritime industry, infrastructure, the financial services industry of the region, and exports. All in all, Greece—dynamically penetrating foreign markets and attracting investment—has emerged as a strategic player even in sectors that were not traditionally considered to be among Greece’s comparative advantages.
Greece’s new status as a strategic player, in this new era, is the culmination and the combination of two factors. On the one hand, it is the result of 30 years of stability and growth, 30 years of being a beacon of peace, which allowed Greece to harness her strong points, to set the foundation for her future well-rounded growth. On the other hand, it is the result of her recent successes that unveiled to the world—gave flesh, like I said before—to some of Greece’s most impressive and promising comparative advantages.
Among the above successes, the Olympic Games—that were excellently organized as well as held—undoubtedly had the most shaping effect of all. Inherently being an event that goes beyond the boundaries of an athletic occasion, an event that can transform perceptions about the hosting country and its people, the incredibly successful Athens Olympics had a great impact on the way the world perceives us. Specifically, hundreds of millions of citizens around the globe not only saw but also were engaged, truly engaged, in the image, the movement, the sound, the pulse of a stable, reliable, secure, and prospering country. As a result, our non-traditional, but yet extremely impressive and promising comparative advantages, unraveled through the symbolic messages that we sent out to the world and that registered with everyone’s consciousness—tourists, businessmen, investors, students, leaders, or what have you.
The effects of these messages speak loud and clear. Specifically, according to international surveys—as you can see on the screen—the global stereotype about Greece involved themes like “fun,” the “sea,” or the “sun.” A global stereotype that was mostly emotional in nature and, thus, favored traditional comparative advantages of ours like tourism and culture. That stereotype was enriched with attributes linked to human rationality: for instance, “creativity,” “discipline,” “security,” “teamwork,” “progress,” and “high-quality services” that are linked to non-traditional comparative advantages of ours. And, here, I would like to call your attention to the big change in perceptions among the U.S. audience, where “stability,” for instance, went up 4 spots. Or, “security” that went up the amazing 13 spots! Etc, etc. These numbers are telling of the extent to which we earned positive feedback from you all. And we are proud of it!
So, in and since 2004, our unique identity and integrated image abroad—what we refer to, in marketing terms, as contemporary Master Brand—has been enriched with new attributes, new themes that have positively re-positioned Greece on the map of international stereotypes. It is fair to say, I think, that Greece is re-branded.
This new global perception about Greece was solidified following our country’s other important successes in 2004 and ever since. Successes that confirmed the breadth and depth of Greece’s new developments; that proved to the world that the Olympic Games were not an isolated moment of glory but a turning point that Greece was preparing to live, for the last 30 years. And it so happened that she lived it in front of the whole world!
Let me draw a picture about those successes, those landmarks of a stable and promising process. I will start with our leading role in the field of energy, where the signing of the political agreement with Russia and Bulgaria on the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline marked a historic moment. And that is because the above route complements—and, in no way, is competitive to—the very important passage of the Dardanelle: on the one hand, the Dardanelle has reached the peak of its capacities, in terms of the maximum number of ships that can go through. On the other hand, the Dardanelle cannot accommodate VLCCs—that is, Very Large Cargo Containers. It becomes clear, therefore, that this project is of great importance for the involved countries but also for others, including the United States. The above will now have a cost-efficient, complementary way to have oil transferred to the Americas and especially the U.S. Gulf.
Also, we signed the protocol for the construction of the underwater gas pipeline between Greece and Italy, which will carry gas through our country and to the rest of Western Europe; also, the construction of the Greek-Turkish gas pipeline—that indicates the strengthening of our relations with Turkey, in a spirit of friendship and productive collaboration for the benefit of both peoples—is well under way. In addition, the chaining of the Greek and Turkish electrical power networks is pending. Last, the true landmark Single Energy Community Treaty aims at institutionalizing, in a binding way, energy cooperation between the EU and southeastern Europe. The above was signed in Athens, on October 25th. And we are very proud of that. We are even prouder, though, that Athens has the seats of both the Regulatory Forum of Electricity and of the Regulatory Board of this Energy Community.
In the maritime industry too, Greece is undoubtedly the global leading power. Specifically, we hold the first place in ship ownership. And, that explains why we also have the top purchasing power in the world, which translates into Greece being the top client of legal, banking, and other services in the industry. At the same time, the Greek-flagged vessels, amounting for 56 percent of the EU’s commercial vessels, render Greece number one in the European Union. It is no surprise, therefore, that we offer our services in maritime logistics to NATO, at the same time that the inflow of shipping foreign exchange in 2004 was more than 13 billion euros.
In the field of tourism, we have achieved such impressive results; especially in terms of tourists traveling to Greece from the United States, the increase reached 25%, while the cruise tourism enjoyed an unprecedented increase of 300%. In addition, we work hard towards turning the building of the Piraeus Port Authority into a cruise ship terminal, in order to enhance this sector of tourism. After all, this indisputable tourist wave towards Greece explains why “American Airlines” are exploring the possibility of daily flights between Chicago and Athens, while the Conde Nast Traveler, the leading travel magazine, announced Myconos and the Cyclades islands, in general, to be the most popular destinations in the world for Americans.
At the same time, Greece is among the first investment powers in Bulgaria, Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, and the F.Y.R.O.M., which also strengthens our leading role in the financial services sector of the region. Our performance in all of these sectors renders us, it becomes crystal clear, a geo-strategic power within the broader region of southeastern Europe, a region stretching from the Caucasus to the Black Sea. The structural legal transformations in the economic environment, including the new Development Act, the Tax Reform Act, and the Public Private Partnership Law, all aim at supporting, from its foundations, our upgraded role in the region and the world. Last, our chairmanship at the UN Security Council after 50 years and our unparalleled humanitarian role in all missions, including the tsunami, the New Orleans hurricane, and the earthquake in Kashmir also put us among the global leaders in terms of responsibility and sensitivity. And, of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention our strong cultural presence not only in antitquity but also in modern times! We proudly won the Euro Football Championship 2004, the Eurovision song contest 2005, and the Eurobasket Championship 2005.
All these successes fostered, nurtured the image that Greece presented during the Games and, thus, solidified the global stereotype as this was shaped in the summer of 2004. In other words, they solidified Greece’s new “exclusive positioning,” that captures the value of all of Greece’s successes and transfers, extends this added value to all our products and services. As a result, it renders them even more competitive, by offering a practical shortcut in the decision-making process of our potential consumers, investors, or business partners, in general. It is within this context that one of the Greek government’s most important strategic decisions, that of leading Greece towards the path of systematic extroversion, has borne so much fruit.
Extroverted growth is not so much an option anymore as it is an imperative within today’s competitive global environment. In detail, in order for a national economy to grow and prosper without added fiscal burdens, it must engage other markets, through its comparative advantages.
Communications aim at channeling, to the world, our successes in these very comparative advantages of ours. And it is against this goal that the communications strategy of the Greek government is put to test. I think that we are doing pretty well so far. First of all, the “Wonderful Greece” communications approach is founded on and captures the common opinion about Greece. We heard it, we read it, and we felt it: the world recognized a country that can deliver, that can meet large-scale challenges, that “can do wonders.” So, it only makes sense that we are now showing them a wonder-full Greece. Second, this campaign communicates Greece’s unique identity abroad, captures all its comparative advantages under the umbrella message of “Wonderful Greece.” and transfers the added value of our successes to any possible sector, product, or service. Here, you can see some of its applications.
To sum up, the Greece of the new era is the Greece that engages the world, through its products and services in the financial sector, energy, infrastructure, the maritime industry, exports, and of course, tourism and culture—it engages the world in its path of stability, security, and prosperity. A path that the whole world has witnessed, a path that has resulted in people around the globe falling in love with Greece all over again. Because the Muse of the Sea and the Sun has gathered experience, grown its hidden talents, and matured into a leading Lady of both the arts and the sciences.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece