Athens

We were up before dawn and it was breathtaking to watch the sun slowly appear to the right of the Acropolis, lighting up this majestic monument. We were on time—even though the Greek TV crew was late, leaving their poor reporter frenzied at missing so much good television footage. The balloon went up for its “voyage” of the World Tour, using lines that had been organized very late last night since none arrived with it. No flying our balloon with no lines to tether from!

The several flights went well, despite some real gusts and one of the lines wrapping itself around a tree branch—we pulled on time and broke off a bit of a branch, but nothing else happened. The ground crew ran around to avoid the lines catching on open car doors and other things that we did not want to rip off through the force of the balloon! It was exciting—the World Tour is really en route, we soared next to the Acropolis and, of course, got lots of attention from media photographers, the local people and lots of tourists. Here we go, buckle your seatbelts (there are none in the balloon, actually)!

It is amazing how people can influence other people and how all this can become a real-live experience of democracy—and that right on top of the Acropolis, where it all started: We had planned to get people together spontaneously and put them in T-shirts on the top of the wall of the Acropolis, but how will the guards react? Of course, when they saw us carrying a huge pile of T-shirts into the area, they started asking us questions, and when they saw us talking to many other people, they became suspicious. When they saw us handing out T-shirts, they started loudly blowing their whistles. One guard came to me and instructed an other guard to go and get the assistant chief, who went to get the big chief … by the time they all got back, 35 people had the T-shirts spelling “Vote for the Acropolis on www.new7wonders.com” over their clothes. They were having so much fun being part of the making of history and waving to the people below the Acropolis and to our cameras that poor head guard could only say, “I hope you don’t get me into trouble for this and that it is for a good cause.” This, at least, I could definitely assure him was the case!

Last but not least: “In Greece, everything is done not at the last minute but at the last second,” these are the wise words of a man who knows the place inside out. The assistant of our Swiss ambassador made this pronouncement just days before the exceptional New7Wonders candidate certificate hand-over ceremony became a reality during our last evening in Athens. It was at the end of the one and only performance of Iphigenia in Taurus by the State Theater of Northern Greece at the Odeon of Herodias Atticus, the famous and historical amphitheatre next to the Acropolis in Athens. After the dramatic (bloody!) tragedy, which was entirely in Greek—which I unfortunately do not speak, but still enjoyed—, I personally handed the certificate to none less then the distinguished President of the Hellenic Republic, Dr Károlos Papoúlias, a very nice and charming elderly gentleman.

All of this was arranged in a miraculous way by our own “Colossus of Rhodes,” our Greek captain and contact man Miltos (he actually has the stature one would imagine the Colossus must have had).