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The Rio Olympics has been marred with controversy after controversy, but the latest one offended not just the country that invented the Games, but it also offended history.

As Australian audiences tuned in to watch Channel 7s coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics, at the introduction of the team from FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) respected sports journalist Bruce Mcavaney and basketball legend Andrew Gaze connected the Slavic team’s history to that of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia:

Andrew Gaze: “Greatest ancient Olympic Champion was?”
“Macedonian and his name was Phillip the second, father of Alexander the Great.”

Bruce Mcavaney adds “And a bit of history about Macedonia.”

The outrage over the insinuations of the Gaze and Mcavaney commentary flooded social media with Greek Australians and community groups like the Greek Pan-Macedonian Associations demanding retractions and apologies from the network.

Their commentary linking ancient Macedonia to FYROM was not only factually incorrect as any historian and scholar around the world would tell you, but it reaffirmed the ignorance and confusion that exists in public discourse concerning ‘Macedonia’ ever since Greece’s northern Slavic neighbour appropriated the word and used it as its name, as it emerged as an independent state after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Sports commentators aren’t known for their expertise in history and politics, but if they do decide to venture into that realm, it is best they are well researched and prepared.

As protests increased, soon enough Greek Americans flooded social media accusing NBC for the same Gaze/ Mcavaney faux pas! Slowly but surely, it emerged that the commentators were all parroting off the same script.

Greek City Times has emailed the International Olympic Committee and their official broadcasting body for an explanation over the matter, asking who wrote and approved the script?

One can be forgiven for thinking that the Greek reaction is nothing more than a bit of nationalism, but it doesn’t stop there. Our children’s educators, scholars and historians around the world agree and support the Greek side.

The dispute between Greece and their northern Slavic neighbour goes beyond just a ‘name’, but has to do with a distortion of history and the appropriation of another’s culture, in a desperate attempt to create a national identity.

Over 300 distinguished scholars from the world’s great universities have protested previously to President Obama over the propaganda of the government of Skopje (FYROM)  and requested that he ‘’intervene to clean up some of the historical debris left in southeast Europe by the previous Bush administration whose incompetent actions,

“Not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great. We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history’’

Nobody denies Greece’s neighbours the right to an identity, but to outright claim that Alexander was not Greek but a Macedonian in the ethnic sense like them, suggesting he was a Slav, is nothing short of an insult to our common intelligence and a lack of respect for history.

Famed American scholar, Eugene N. Borza, professor emeritus of ancient history at Pennsylvania State University stated:

“Modern Slavs, both Bulgarians and Macedonians, cannot establish a link with antiquity, as the Slavs entered the Balkans centuries after the demise of the ancient Macedonian kingdom. Only the most radical Slavic factions—mostly émigrés in the United States, Canada, and Australia—even attempt to establish a connection to antiquity.

These are a newly emergent people in search of a past to help legitimise their precarious present as they attempt to establish their singular identity in a Slavic world dominated historically by Serbs and Bulgarians’’

Archaeology, history, art, literature and the unearthed material culture of the last 2,500  years testify to the fact that ancient Macedonians spoke and wrote Greek, and like other Greek city states might have had local dialects, worshipped the same Gods and had incorporated regional deities into their belief system. Indeed, Alexander the Great was Macedonian, Pericles was Athenian, King Leonidas was Spartan and all of them Greek.

The tragic irony for FYROM with respect to the gaffe in the Olympic sports commentary is that it contains some truth:

Indeed, Phillip competed in the ancient Olympics, but could not have done so unless he was GREEK, given that non-Greeks were banned. In other words, today’s self-proclaimed “Macedonian” peoples have nothing in common with the Greek kingdom of Ancient Macedonia, unless of course they regard themselves as Greek…

We wonder, would FYROM have claimed the name had Alexander the Great not existed?

Links for your reading pleasure:

macedonia-evidence.org/obama-letter.html
macedonia-evidence.org/
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonia_(Greece)

 

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.

6 Comments
  1. I agree The Slavs have no link to the ancient Macedonians. The language was first heard in that area after the fall of the Romans hundreds of years after the era of Alexander .Macedonia should not be used in their name at all Tito gave them that right before that that area was called VARDARSKA How come Tito was allowed to that.

  2. To cut a long story short Greece needs to take firm action against FYROM. No more negotiations.
    This blasphemous insulting calamity, towards Greece by FYROM needs to come to an end !

  3. How can a statment offend history,google specifies that in order to be offended you must be alive.

  4. What Channel 7 and its broadcast team did during the Opening Ceremony was unconscionable and totally unacceptable. To disrespect the country that created the Olympics in the way that you did is nothing short of disgraceful. And yet, your network continues to bury its head in the sand when it should come forward long before now to apologise for the ineptness shown by Messrs Gaze & McAvaney.

  5. It is a great shame that in this modern day, we still have these arguments. These great men acheived something in their lives, regardless of their origin. We should all use them as inspiration to acheive our own greatness, so that future generations can look back at us and say, I want to be like that person in history. If the governments of Macedonian and Greece worked together, they could get themselves out of debt and be a powerhouse in the Balkan region – for ths to happen, both groups need to get past this naming issue. Both sides should be able to use the name and move on with your lives and prosper together.

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