BY Stephen Nartey, 2:20pm July 11, 2024,

Giannis Antetokounmpo to make history as first Black athlete to carry Greece’s flag at the Olympics

Giannis Antetokounmpo/Photo credit: NBA

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the celebrated Greek basketball player and two-time NBA MVP, is set to make history as the first black athlete to carry Greece’s flag at the Olympics. Antetokounmpo will share this honor with racewalker Antigoni Ntrismpioti during the opening ceremony in Paris on July 26.

This announcement follows the Greek men’s basketball team’s recent triumph, securing their first Olympic qualification since 2008 by defeating Croatia in a thrilling match in Piraeus, according to the BBC.

Overcome with emotion, the 29-year-old Antetokounmpo, who has played for the Milwaukee Bucks since being drafted in 2013 and led them to the 2021 NBA championship, was seen in tears after the victory.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said after qualification. “Since I was a kid I always wanted to play in the Olympic Games.”

His path to becoming Greece’s Olympic flagbearer has been fraught with challenges. Born to Nigerian immigrant parents, Antetokounmpo spent his first 18 years effectively stateless, unable to travel outside Greece due to a lack of official documentation from either Greece or Nigeria. His situation changed in May 2013, when he was granted Greek citizenship just weeks before the NBA draft.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Antetokounmpo spoke about his difficult childhood and the obstacles he overcame on his way to stardom.

“I used to sell things since I can remember myself since I was six or seven years old.

“I was always out of home trying as much as I could to help my mom and dad by selling watches, glasses, CDs, DVDs, and everything I could find. I was doing that until I turned 17 because I had to. I had no other choice. When I was selling all those things, I was the best seller.”

Despite achieving fame in the U.S., Antetokounmpo faced racism in his homeland of Greece. In a 2020 TNT documentary, he revealed the challenges he encountered, stating, “Greece is a country of white people, life can be difficult for someone with the color of my skin. Or of another nationality. You go to a lot of neighborhoods, and you face a lot of racism.”

His comments sparked backlash from some Greeks, including Konstantinos Kalemis, then-coordinator for refugee education at the Malakasa camp, who used racial slurs against Antetokounmpo and was subsequently fired.

Antetokounmpo has also experienced discrimination from government officials. In 2018, Adonis Georgiadis, now the health minister, mispronounced Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name and incorrectly stated he was born in Africa instead of Greece.

Antetokounmpo will be one of the first athletes to open the Games as Greece traditionally leads the parade. Spyros Kapralos, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, said there was unanimous support for Antetokounmpo to carry the flag in Paris, believing the flagbearers would elevate the country’s profile.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 11, 2024


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