Panou, E.*, Anastasiou, A.
Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thermi 57001, Thessaloniki, Greece
The purpose of the present study is to explore the pivotal role sport has played in the political and diplomatic goings-on in the Aemos Peninsula, in a period during which Balkan countries sought to bring about a rapprochement among them. The object of the study has been approached through the Greek perspective on how the role of sport in inter-Balkan relations evolved, as will become evident by the primary sources used. The establishment of the celebrated Pan-Balkan Games stands out as the first successful attempt at reconciliation among Balkan nations, who decided to set aside the former conflicts and animosity that had afflicted the troubled area of the Balkan Peninsula. Political conditions were becoming gradually more and more favorable and thus brought to fruition the vision for the establishment of the Pan-Balkan Games, while the Games themselves acted as an agent of unity, reconciliation and solidarity among the Balkan countries. Two distinguished political figures were the driving force behind the promotion of unity in the Balkans, Eleftherios Venizelos and Alexandros Papanastasiou. These two eminent Greek politicians created a most promising political setting; the former with the radical shift in Greek foreign policy he effected, and the latter by conceiving and establishing the Balkan Conferences. The circumstances were by then ripe for the Pan-Balkan Games to be established. Their opening ceremonies attracted the interest of Balkan governments, which participated through prominent representatives who gave celebratory and enthusiastic speeches on Balkan stability and union. The luster of the Games began to wane, however, after the breakdown of negotiations among governments and the consequent failure to reach a unanimous agreement and sign the Balkan Pact, which could finally lead to a genuine, bona fide union of Balkan Countries. Similarly, this political stalemate took its toll on the Pan-Balkan Games, which forfeited their political significance and their integral role in negotiations; the ‘Balkan Games’, as they have been dubbed, still take place nowadays.
Keywords: Pan-Balkan games; Balkan conferences; reconciliation; union; politics.