A Greek Olympic Gold Medalist and His Citizenship

By Christos Iliopoulos

All over Greece and beyond, the millions of Greeks of the world were overwhelmed with joy when they learned of the second - at that time - gold medal that our country won at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. After the first gold medal that Greece won at the men’s synchronized diving (Syranidis and Bimis), it was Judo’s time to give the excuse to thousands of Greeks to celebrate the second gold medal for the host country. Since then, of course, Greece has won five more gold medals, reaching a total of seven gold and 16 medals in total, which is an unprecedented record for such a small country. After the Games were over, Greece has captured the 15th place with regards to medals collection, and if we add the population factor, the analogy population to medals number brings Greece to the fourth place among the 202 nations that competed in the summer Olympics!

So, Greece won its second gold medal with its new eighteen years-old “star” Ilias Iliadis from Georgia of the former Soviet Union, who managed to beat not one, but five adversaries in five different matches in one day, reaching the final, were he prevailed, capturing the first place at the category of 81 kg. in Judo.

See Also:

How to Become a Greek Citizen

Greek Laws Dealing with Purchase of Property in Greece

From Rich-Poor Relatives to Equal Partners: Towards a New Relationship between the Greeks of the Homeland and the Greeks of the Diaspora

Olympic Games 2004: Spectators' Rights and Duties

Trainer of Ilias Iliadis is Nikos Iliadis, who also happens to be his …father! He is also of Greek descent. The journalists from the written press, the TV and the radio underlined the relationship of trainer – father of Nikos Iliadis with his son Ilias, asking questions whether it is the trainer or the father who takes precedence over the other.

While everybody assumed that that’s how the story was, a few days later some newspapers carried articles which maintained that in effect Ilias was not the real son of Nikos Iliadis and that the eighteen years-old Ilias is adopted by his trainer Nikos Iliadis and not his natural child. It was even written that the real – natural father of Ilias was in the stadium himself celebrating his son’s gold medal. Today, it seems that this is the truth, since it was also written that the real name of the Greek gold medalist from Georgia, where he was born, was Tjardjil Sviandauri!

It is not our job to undertake a police investigation on who is the real child of whom. We take it for granted that the Olympic gold medalist Ilias Iliadis is indeed Greek and we are not going to breach his privacy asking questions on how he came to Greece, whether he is really of Greek origin or simply a true Georgian etc.

What we are going to try to explain is how Tjardjil Sviandauri from Georgia became Ilias Iliadis of Greece.

Most countries that participate to the Games, have "adopted" athletes who were born in another country from the one for which they are competing. We can, therefore, enjoy Ilias Iliadis' gold medal as a perfectly legal and a perfectly Greek medal.

Even if Ilias Iliadis is not in reality of Greek descent and he does not have, typically, Greek blood in his veins, it is considered that he legally obtained the Greek citizenship since he was adopted by his Greek trainer Nikos Iliadis before he reached the age of eighteen. Therefore, he absolutely lawfully contested a medal wearing the blue and white colors of Greece, sending the Greek flag to the higher spot and the Greek crowds to heaven.

According to article 27 of the Code of Greek Citizenship, “the foreign person who is adopted before the age of eighteen, as the child of a Greek, becomes Greek from the time of the adoption”. This parliamentary law was not voted recently. It has been a valid law of the Greek state since 1955.

We are not aware of the court decision which ruled on this adoption so that the athlete from Georgia was adopted by the Greek Nikos Iliadis, but we presume that this decision was properly issued by a competent court of law. If that’s what happened, we should not care whether Ilias Iliadis, our Olympic gold medallist, is or is not of Greek descent. He has become Greek according to a court decision, since Greek law was enforced. And such a law was not passed from the parliament only recently to allow for any foul play in Iliadis’ case. On the contrary, it’s been effective for decades.

Most countries, anyway, that participate to the Games, have “adopted” athletes who were born in another country from the one for which they are competing. Proof of that are black athletes who are competing for …Sweden, Australian weightlifters who were born in Armenia and a Turkish athlete by the name of Souleimanoglou, who was born in Bulgaria by the name of Souleimanof. After all, the US athlete who came second at the Athens Marathon of the Olympics was born in Africa.

We can, therefore, enjoy Ilias Iliadis’ gold medal as a perfectly legal and a perfectly Greek medal, in anticipation of the future medals that this very young Hercules is expected to win for the country of Gods.

Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at law, LL.M., in Athens, Greece, specializing in International and European Business Law. For more information about him, see his brief biographical sketch under the HCS section for Contributing Authors at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/christosiliopoulosbio.html. He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives section bearing his name at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveiliopoulos.html. He can be contacted by e-mail at bm-bioxoi@otenet.gr or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS

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