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Greece has risen to prominence in a number of sporting areas in recent decades. Football in particular has seen a rapid transformation, with the Greek national football team winning the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship. Many Greek athletes have also achieved significant success and have won world and olympic titles in numerous sports during the years, such as basketball, wrestling, water polo, athletics, weightlifting, with many of them becoming international stars inside their sports. The successful organisation of the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games led also to the further development of many sports and has led to the creation of many world class sport venues all over Greece and especially in Athens. Greek athletes have won a total 146 medals for Greece in 15 different Olympic sports at the Summer Olympic Games, including the Intercalated Games, an achievement which makes Greece one of the top nations globally, in the world's rankings of medals per capital.
Greece was home of the ancient Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC in Olympia, and hosted the modern Olympic Games twice, the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics and the 2004 Summer Olympics; the country also hosted the 1906 Intercalated Games, at the time regarded as Olympic Games but not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee today. The nation has competed at every Summer Olympic Games, one of the only four countries to have done so, and most of the Winter Olympic Games. During the parade of nations Greece is always called first, as the founding nation of the ancient precursor of modern Olympics, and its national governing body is the Hellenic Olympic Committee.
Having won a total of 116 medals (33 gold, 43 silver and 40 bronze), Greece is ranked 32nd by gold medals in the all-time Summer Olympic medal count. Their best ever performance was in the 1896 Summer Olympics, when Greece finished second in the medal table with 10 gold medals, one less than the United States, the most silver (17) and bronze (19) medals, as well as the most medals overall (46). After a long period of poor tallies, the 1992 Summer Olympics marked an uptum and Greece made successive medal-winning records (excluding the 1896 record) in the three following Olympic Games. Greek athletes have won medals in 15 different sports, but the sports in which the Greek team has won most medals are primarily athletics and weightlifting, as well as other sports like wrestling, gymnastics and shooting. In the 1906 Games, Greece finished third with 8 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals, and second in total behind France with 35 medals; these medals are not officially included in the Olympic medal count though. Winter sports have not played a major role in Greece, thus the country has not won any medal in the Winter Olympics so far. Despite that, Greece leads the Parade of Nations also in the Winter Olympics.
Paralympic Sports have grown significantly in Greece since the late 1970s. The first participation of athletes with a disability at Paralympic Games was in 1976. The organisation of the Paralympic Games in Athens led to significant growth. The Hellenic Team participated in 17 of the 19 sports and won 20 medals (3 Gold, 13 Silver and 4 Bronze). At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games the Greek Team made its most successful appearance ever with 24 medals (5 Gold, 9 Silver and 10 Bronze). Greece has won in total 80 medals at the Paralympic Games, participating only lately.
Athletics has been another very successful individual sport in Greece. Greek athletes have won 29 medals in total, at the Olympic games for Greece and 19 medals in the IAAF World Championships in Athletics, while some Greek athletes have reached world stardom with their achievements such as:
Other notable Greek athletes include Sofia Sakorafa who broke the world record on 16 September 1982 with a throw of 74.20 metres. Lambros Papakostas a retired Greek high jumper who won two silver medals at the World Indoor Championships in 1995 and 1997, with a personal best, achieved in Athens in 1992, 2.36 metres. Konstadinos Filippidis, Konstadinos Koukodimos, Christos Papanikolaou (who jumped 5.49 metres in Athens to capture the world record in 1970), Paraskevi Tsiamita, Niki Xanthou and Mirela Manjani. Also legends of the past include the legendary Spyridon Louis and Konstantinos Tsiklitiras.
The Hellenic Baseball Federation was founded in 1997 in order to prepare a Greek national team for 2004 Athens Olympics. In 2000, the Greek Baseball championship started. Marousi 2004 and Spartakos Glyfadas have won the most titles. In 2014, the Greek government decided the abolition of Hellenic Baseball Federation due to low number of active clubs in this sport.
Greece has a long tradition and history of success in basketball. Greece was one of the eight founding members of FIBA in 1932 and the national governing body is the Hellenic Basketball Federation, member of FIBA Europe. The Greek national basketball team is considered among the world's top basketball powers; ranked 9th in the world. They were the silver medalists of the 2006 FIBA World Championship after beating 101–95 the United States of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony in the tournament's semifinal. They have been crowned European Champions twice, in 1987 and 2005, and they have also won three more medals at European level, one silver in 1989 and two bronze medals in 1949 and 2009 Eurobasket. At the Olympic Games they have been placed 5th in three occasions. The 1987 gold medal was the first win for a Greek national team in a major tournament in any team sport, thus basketball became extremely popular in Greece after that achievement. The youth national teams of Greece have also enjoyed great success, having been crowned World and European Champions and having won a hatful of medals in all the major World and European tournaments.
The Greek Basket League is the top professional basketball league in Greece and one of the strongest in Europe, while several Greek clubs have won major European titles. In fact, Greek basketball teams are the most successful in European basketball the last 25 years, having won as many as 9 Euroleagues since the establishment of the modern era Euroleague Final Four format in 1988, while no other nation has won more than 5 Euroleague championships in this period. AEK Athens was the first-ever Greek team, not only to reach a European Cup Final, but also to win a European title. On April 4, 1968, AEK Athens defeated Slavia Prague by a score of 89-82, in Athens before 80,000 spectators. Panathinaikos, six times European Champions and Olympiacos, three times European Champions and four times Euroleague Runners-up, are two of the most successful European clubs and among the top basketball powers in Europe.
Besides the 9 Euroleagues, Greek basketball teams (Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens, PAOK, Maroussi) have won 3 Triple Crowns, 5 Saporta Cups, 2 Korać Cups and 1 FIBA Europe Champions Cup, while all of them - except for Maroussi - have made it to the Euroleague Final Four. In women's basketball, Athinaikos have won the EuroCup. A number of Greek players have gained notability for their achievements such as Nikos Galis, widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest players in international basketball history, Panagiotis Giannakis, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Fanis Christodoulou, Theodoros Papaloukas, Vassilis Spanoulis and Dimitris Diamantidis. The Greek players that have played in the NBA are Efthimios Rentzias, Vassilis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, Andreas Glyniadakis, Jake Tsakalidis, Kostas Papanikolaou, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Greek Americans Lou Tsioropoulos, Kurt Rambis, Nick Calathes and Kostas Koufos. Anastasia Kostaki and Evanthia Maltsi are female Greek professional basketball players that have played in the WNBA.
Cricket is not very popular in most of Greece, but it is pretty popular in Corfu. The British imported the sport to Corfu during the British rule of the Ionian Islands. Almost all the activities of this sport take place in Corfu. The Hellenic Cricket Federation and most clubs of the championship are located on the island. So far, two European Cricket Championships have been held in Corfu
Association football is the most popular team sport in Greece. Its national governing body is the Hellenic Football Federation founded in 1926, which is member of FIFA and UEFA. The Greek national football team rose to prominence in the UEFA Euro 2004, when they were crowned European champions in one of the biggest shocks in international football history. Ranked 13th in the world as of 2009, they have qualified three times for the FIFA World Cup in 1994 ,2010 and 2014, reaching the Round of 16 in 2014, four times for the UEFA European Championship in 1980, 2004, 2008 and 2012, and one time for the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2005. Greece has great tradition in youth teams, which have been successful; the Under-21 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 1988 and 1998, the Under-19 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2007, while the Under-17 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 1985, took the third place in 1991 and the fourth place in 1996 and 2000.
The official national championship was held for a first time in the season 1927–28. Super League Greece is now the highest professional league in the Greek football league system. It is currently ranked 12th in the UEFA coefficient, while it was placed among the top ten strongest leagues in Europe from 1996 to 2006, with its peak being the 6th place in 2002 and 2003. The Greek Football Cup has been the main domestic cup competition, inaugurated in season 1931–32. Both competitions have been dominated by Olympiacos, which is the most successful football club in Greece, followed by the other two big Greek football clubs Panathinaikos and AEK Athens. The Greek football clubs have not won any major UEFA competition yet; the only club that have reached a final so far is Panathinaikos, who were European Cup runners-up in 1970–71, while they have also reached the semifinals on two occasions. Olympiacos and AEK Athens have made it to the quarterfinals in the top European clubs' competition, while these three clubs have reached the quarterfinals in the other major UEFA competitions as well, with AEK Athens' best performance being a semifinal appearance in the UEFA Cup.
Fencing used to be popular in Greece in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Greek fencers won Olympic medals in the first Olympic Games in Athens. These include Leonidas Pyrgos, Ioannis Georgiadis gold, Tilemachos Karakalos silver and Periklis Pierrakos-Mavromichalis bronze.
There is a depiction of a hockey-like game from 200 BC in Ancient Greece when the game may have been called "Κερητίζειν" ("kerētízein") because it was played with a horn ("κέρας" in Greek) and a ball-like object. Despite the possible ancient origin of the sport, field hockey is regaining in popularity in modern Greece. It was introduced in the country by Panathinaikos A.O. in the early 20th century, but a national championship was organized much later, in 1994.
Futsal in Greece was active less than three decades. The first fields of this sport appeared in the early of 1990s and initially they served the amusement and the recreation of adults. Soon, the sport becomes more organised and the first official championship held at the late of 1990s, concretely in the season 1997–98. The official Championship, Cup and the national teams are regulated by Hellenic Football Federation. Just after, in 1999 the Panhellenic Association of Futsal Clubs (Πανελλήνια Ενωση Ποδοσφαιρικών Σωματείων Σάλας) was established. Now, the championship held with the participation of ten teams.
Handball is a less popular, but growing team sport in Greece. The Greece national handball team finished 6th out of 24 teams in the 2005 World Men's Handball Championship, in their first (and so far only) time competing. In the 2004 Summer Olympics, Greece finished 6th. Greece finished 4th out of 6 teams in Group B, with wins over Brazil national handball team and Egypt national handball team, before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual gold medalists Croatia national handball team, and then beating South Korea national handball team, before losing to France national handball team.
Ice hockey was imported in Greece in 1984, from Greeks abroad. The Greek Federation of Ice Sports was founded two years later in 1986 and the first championship was held in 1989. The sport has had trouble due to the insufficiency of ice rinks in Greece.
Kickboxing in Greece has produced multiple all-time great fighters. It is not one of the most popular sports in Greece, but it has its followers.
Until 2000, the Olympic Sport of Modern Pentathlon (running + shooting, swimming, fencing, horse riding) was one of the SEGAS federation's sports. In 2000 the "Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon" was found. It is based in the "Goudi Olympic Center" in Athens.
Greece organises the rally Acropolis one of toughest rallies in WRC's calendar. Due to the mountainous terrain of the country the roads are unpredictable, and thus an ideal place for hill-climb rally; This has led to the foundation of the Hellenic Hill Climb.
Despite the passion of the Greek people for the Formula 1 & Moto GP, there is no race track that meets the requirements for the organization of such an event. It is rumored that construction of a race track somewhere in Greece will commence that meets the standards, however this is yet to be seen. However the Serres circuit does meet the formula 3 standards. Despite this, the Greek people sate their passion for motorsports by organising a wide variety of motorsports, from drag racing to drift.
Notable Greek drivers are:
Rugby union and Rugby league were never much popular in Greece, but they started developing during the 1990s.
With the setting up of a Hellenic Rugby (Union) Federation in 2004, national championships, such as national teams, were created also.
Domestic Rugby League started in 2011 in Piraeus region and since 2012 regular tournaments take place in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki.
Since 2014 Rugby Union is under the Aegis of the Hellenic Handball Federation.
Since 2016 Rugby League is under the Aegis of the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon.
On November 9 2019 the Greek National Rugby League Team qualified for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, after defeating Serbia in a qualifier 82-6 in Belgrade.
Shooting used to be very popular amongst the Greeks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Several Greek shooters won many Olympic medals in the first Olympiads (Pantelis Karasevdas, Georgios Orphanidis, Ioannis Frangoudis gold, Panagiotis Pavlidis, Georgios Moraitinis, Iason Sappas, Alexandros Theofilakis, Ioannis Theofilakis, Alexandros Vrasivanopoulos silver, Nicolaos Trikupis, Nikolaos Morakis, Anastasios Metaxas bronze).
Greece has three bordering seas, the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea, so it is not surprising that sailing is a popular sport. Greek athletes have won 7 medals in sailing and 2 in Rowing at the Olympic games and also numerous gold medals in the world and European championships. Some of the most notable Greek athletes in the sports of sailing and rowing include world and olympic champions such as:
In the European Rowing Championships, Greece has won more gold medals all-time than any other nation, and is tied with Germany for the second-most medals of all time (behind Italy). In fact, Greece has finished first in the medal count 50% of the times it has been held, and has been in the top 4 of the medal count every single time!
Swimming and Diving are two sports that Greek athletes have achieved significant wins at the Olympic Games, World championships and European Championships. Some notable Greek swimmers are the Olympic champions of the past Spyridon Chazapis and Efstathios Chorafas and present World and European champions such as Romanos Alyfantis, Nery Mantey Niangkouara, Ioannis Drymonakos, the world champion in the 50 m backstroke event of the 2005 World Championships Aristeidis Grigoriadis and silver world champion Spyridon Gianniotis. Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis made history winning Greece's first-ever gold medal in diving and the hosts' first gold of the 2004 Athens Olympics. The diver pair therefore became very popular in Greece.
Tennis has been growing in Greece over the past decade Eleni Daniilidou has had a lot of success, winning 5 WTA Tour titles in her career. Several players with Greek ancestry, such as Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis have become very famous around the world. Greek-Cypriot star Marcos Baghdatis has many fans in Greece. Greece also has several other players at the international level, like Konstantinos Economidis, Anna Gerasimou and Irini Georgatou. Since 2016, a new era started for this sport in Greece with Maria Sakkari and in 2017 appeared in the ATP World Tour the former junior world No.1 Stefanos Tsitsipas
Triathlon is an Olympic Sport that includes running, swimming and cycling. It is under the Aegis of the Modern Pentathlon Federation.
Volleyball is a popular sport in Greece controlled by the Hellenic Volleyball Federation, member of CEV. The major achievements of the Greek men's national volleyball team are two bronze medals, one in the Men's European Volleyball Championship and another one in the Men's European Volleyball League, a 5th place in the Olympic Games and a 6th place in the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship. The Greek league, the A1 Ethniki, is considered one of the top volleyball leagues in Europe and the Greek clubs have made significant success in European competitions. Olympiacos is the most successful volleyball club in the country having won the most domestic titles and being the only Greek club to have won European trophies; they have won two CEV Cups, they have been CEV Champions League runners-up twice and have also played in many final fours in the European competitions, making them one of the biggest volleyball clubs in Europe. Iraklis, Panathinaikos and Orestiada have also made it to the final in continental tournaments.
Greece is often regarded as an international powerhouse in both men's and women's water polo, with its clubs and nationals teams having achieved a great number of distinctions in international competitions. The Greek men's national water polo team have won a silver medal in the 1997 FINA World Cup, two bronze medals in the FINA World League in 2004 and 2006, a bronze medal in the 2005 World Aquatics Championships and the 4th place in the 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek women's national water polo team's most important achievements are the gold medal in the 2011 World Aquatics Championships, the silver medals in the 2004 Olympic Games, 2010 European Championship and 2012 European Championship, as well as a gold and three bronze medals in the FINA World League in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012 respectively.
The Greek water polo leagues in both men and women are among the top European leagues, while several Greek clubs have enjoyed international success. In men's competitions, Olympiacos is one of the biggest European water polo clubs having won one LEN Euroleague title and a European Super Cup in 2002, the only Greek club to have been crowned European champions, while they have also participated in three more finals, one in the LEN Euroleague and two in the LEN Cup Winners' Cup; along with Ethnikos Piraeus, they are the most successful water polo clubs in the country. Vouliagmeni won a LEN Cup Winner's Cup in 1997 and they have also been runners-up one time in the LEN Trophy, such as NO Patras and Panionios. In women's competitions, the Greek clubs have dominated the European competitions in the 2000s (decade); Vouliagmeni, three-time European champions and LEN Trophy winner once, and Glyfada, with two European championships, are two of the most successful European women's sides. Ethnikos Piraeus have also won a LEN Trophy, while Olympiacos have made it to the final in the same competition.
Dimitrios Diathessopoulos is known as the father of Greek water polo.
Weightlifting has been the most successful individual sport for the Greeks, with the national team regularly winning gold medals at the Olympics and the rest international competitions. Greek weightlifters have won a total 15 medals at the Olympics with 6 of them being gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze medals. In the World Weightlifting Championships Greek weightlifting team has won a total 111 medals (70 in men and 41 in women) with 26 of them being gold. Greek weightlifters have set many world and Olympic records during the years which forced the sporting world to name the Greek weightlifting team of the mid-1990s, the "Dream Team" of the sport. Some of the greatest weightlifters in the history of the sport include Greek legends such as:
The forms of wrestling we know today as Greco-Roman and freestyle found their origins in the lands on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. These lands are where the Ancient Greeks resided, and developed the art of wrestling. Wrestling to the Greeks was not only part of a soldier's training regimen, but also a part of everyday life. Even in modern days, Wrestling has been one of the most significant Olympic sports in Greece, which has produced many Olympic and world champions and has given moments of glory to the country. Greece has won 11 medals at the modern Olympics and multiple medals in the World and European championships, a fact that makes the sport as one of the most successful for the country on a global stage. Some of the most significant Greek wrestlers are:
Hellenic federation of Modern Pentathlon, authorised for Triathlon (Ministry Decision) [diavgeia.gov.gr]
Hellenic federation of Modern Pentathlon, authorised for Rugby League (Ministry Decision) [diavgeia.gov.gr]