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Mr. Vgenopoulos' grandiose party

16 October 2009 / 14:10:43  GRReporter
7963 reads

Maria S. Topalova

About three weeks ago a courier brought me a huge invitation, about 50 cm by 50 cm, made out of expensive paper and inside a luxurious envelope. Nowadays when everything is moving almost too fast online, sending an invitation through a courier seems to me to be a bit old fashioned, non ecological and expensive. Of course, the invitation text explains everything: MIG President Andreas Vgenopoulos has the pleasure of inviting you to the official opening of Olympic Air on 15 October 2009 at 08:00PM in the Technical Base of the international airport of Athens "Eleftherios Venizelos". Dress code - formal."

To be honest my first reaction was that I didn't want to go. Usually I do not attend corporation parties because they are boring and, also, I'm not a big fan of Mr. Vgenopoulos. I find him extremely arrogant and the total opposite of the term "gentleman". Yes, but after that the story with Dora Bakoyannis happened, lawsuits were flying around and I was intrigued. I wanted to see who the friends of the MIG president were, so I went.

Andreas Vgenopoulos is famous for his megalomania but what I saw that night exceeded even my greatest expectations. I live close to the airport highway, so I was there in 10 minutes. Travelling the distance from the main building of the airport to the Technical base took me 30 minutes. Around me there were three lanes filled with luxury cars, driven by men dressed in black and next to them spiffy women. We were moving slowly, if we were moving at all.

The policemen were tense...they needed to find a place to park all the cars. All parking lots few kilometres away from the airport were reserved for Vgenopoulos' party. I was late and I was starting to get mad. My colleagues from the Foreign Correspondents Association were already inside. Finally I managed to park in front of "Metropolitan" store. Together with some men and women dressed in black I got on a bus, which took us to the Technical Base. "What is going on here? This person has invited all of Athens. Are they giving away free aeroplanes inside?", I asked my colleague from Al Ahram - the biggest Arab newspaper - on the phone and he answered, "He didn't invite all of Athens but all of Greece."

Things got better at the entrance of the Technical Base where Olympic Air employees were directing people according to their surname. After that I was given a paper with my seat number on for inside. Then I passed through a scanner - well, with many people in one place, security is needed. So, I finally entered the big hall of the Technical Base, which especially for this night was split in two. Three Olympic aeroplanes are displayed at the entrance, in order to please the eye of the guests. There is plenty of food, drinks and people talking animatedly. When I exited the entrance area I found myself in the main hall, where there were between 10 and 15 thousand luxury chairs and the ceiling and the stage were showered with blue light - obviously a symbol of the clear Athenian sky.

Mr. Vgenopoulos knows how to woo the journalists and we were seated in front. Personally, I was sitting right behind the executive director of "Eleftherios Venizelos" airport Yiannis Parashis and his wife - a very stylish and aristocratic couple. I kept watching the vanity fair around me. The men seemed as if they were wearing uniforms - black suits and ties and the women had some differences. Some were dressed with style others not. The atmosphere in the hall is high. All of Greece's contractors elite is here.

Surprisingly, in attendance were many ministers from the old government, and none from the newly elected one. The one to blame for Olympic's privatization - former minister of transportation and, after that, of development Kostis Hadzidakis. Other attending former ministers were former labour minister Fani Petralia, and former minister of economy Yiannis Papathanasiou. In the first row, sitting proudly was the archbishop of Athens and all Greece - Hieronymos. Among all celebrities I spotted the owner of Antenna TV Minos Kiriakou with his significantly younger wife Marry. Bulgarian ambassador Andrei Karaslavov is also strolling around among the guests and, as always, is hardly finding his place.

So the celebration begins. The screen projects the earth and from it festively comes out the MIG logo. Something like the MGM lion of the golden Hollywood ages. The stage fills with Cirque du Soleil acrobats, who skilfully juggle with hoops. Finally the hoops come together and form the Olympic logo. The screen shows videos of the MIG empire and of charity works of the finance colossus. Andreas Vgenopoulos' touching face comes on too showing how he is feeding hungry children. The kitsch is so great that even the presence of the famous Greek opera singer Marios Frangoulis as a host, could not neutralize the tasteless megalomania of the show.

The first part ended with the song ''Imagine'' by John Lenon, sung by Frangoulis. Olympic Air executive director Andonis Simigdalas comes on stage, who spoke of their work throughout the last few months, about the new aeroplanes and about the staff. After him the stage was taken over by Andreas Vgenopoulos himself. "We answered the plea of the previous government and with the help of the opposition we undertook a great task. All foreign experts warned us that we would not make it." The MIG president did not omit to thank all former ministers for Olympic's successful privatization and also current PM, who as an oppositional leader had also supported the deal. His speech was broken by the applause, which started from the back of the hall and finished somewhere in the middle.

Tags: Olympic Air Olympic Airlines Olympic Airways MIG Group Andreas Vgenopoulos
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