This week in history: January 7 to 13

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JANUARY 7:

On that day in 1934, Tassos Papadopoulos, a Cypriot politician and lawyer, was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. After studying law at King’s College London and Gray’s Inn, Papadopoulos returned to Cyprus to practice law. Papadopoulos has always been drawn to politics and participated in the political life of the island. He was ultimately elected as the fifth president of Cyprus and served the country for exactly five years – from February 28, 2005 to February 28, 2008. Papadopoulos has been described as an “uncompromising champion of the Greek Cypriots”. In 2004, he urged Greek Cypriots to vote against the UN-backed reunification proposal – the Annan Plan – with Turkish Cyprus. While the Turkish Cypriots voted to accept the plan, the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted to reject it and, as a result, only Greek Cyprus was admitted to the European Union in May 2004. Papadopoulos, an avid smoker, eventually died of lung cancer in 2008 Almost a year after his burial, his body was removed from his grave. At the time, information sources said police described the act as “highly organized” – the body thieves moved a heavy marble slab covering his grave and dug several feet of earth to reach the corpse before covering their tracks with lime. Three months after the act of sacrilege, the body was found in another cemetery in Nicosia after police received anonymous information that the body had been moved there. DNA tests confirmed that the body was that of the late president.

JANUARY 12:

On this day in 1873, Spyridon Louis, the first winner of the modern Olympic marathon (40 km), was born in Marousi, Greece. Louis was not a favorite to win the Olympic title, but his unexpected triumph gave Greece their only victory in a track and field event at the 1896 Olympics. Before becoming a national hero with his Olympic medal, Louis was helped his father sell and transport mineral water to Athens, which at the time lacked a central water supply. After the race he became a police officer, but eventually lost his job when he was imprisoned for over a year for falsifying military documents before being acquitted in 1927. In Greece, various sports establishments bear the name of Louis – whose Olympic stadium was built in Athens in anticipation of the 2004 Olympics. Today the expression “egina / ginomai Louis” (I became / I become Louis) is known as a common Greek expression meaning “to disappear in running fast ”.

JANUARY 13:

On this day in 1822, the design for the Greek flag was adopted by the First National Assembly in Epidaurus. The national flag of Greece, commonly referred to as the “blue and white” (Greek: Γαλανόλευκη) is officially recognized by Greece as one of its national symbols and has nine equal horizontal bands of blue alternating with white (the colors of the famous Greek sky and sea flag). There is a blue township in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the established religion of the Greek people of Greece and Cyprus. The shade of blue used in the flag has varied throughout its history, from light blue to dark blue, the latter having been increasingly used since the late 1960s. According to popular tradition, the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the expression “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” (Liberty or death), the five blue bands for the syllables “Ελευθερία” and the four white bands “ή Θάνατος”. The nine bands are also said to represent the letters of the word “freedom” (Greek: ελευθερία). There is also a different theory, according to which the nine bands symbolize the nine Muses, the goddesses of art and civilization (nine has traditionally been one of the reference numbers for the Greeks).

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