Atlanta may have taken the centennial Olympic Games from Athens in 1996, but the new Greek consul here holds no ill will.
At least Atlanta and Ancient Olympia got a sister city relationship out of the deal, says Theodoros Dimopoulos.
And besides, he will be preoccupied with a far more important celebration as his work begins in earnest in 2021 — the bicentennial of the country’s declaration of independence.
He hopes to parlay this spotlight into deeper research and student exchanges from the South, as well as enhanced tourism as the world gets its travel bearings again.
“Greece is a 365-day destination. You can go for spring, summer, autumn, winter — everything, we have it, and I would like to promote this as well, especially as there is optimism that we will start coming out of this pandemic gradually,” he said. “We are expecting that summer 2021 will be better than the previous one. And we would be very eager to showcase the beauty of our country to potential tourists from Atlanta.”
As consul at the Consulate General of Greece in Moscow for his most recent posting, Mr. Dimopoulos built up considerable tourism expertise while processing visas for the many Russians who visited the country before the pandemic.
Travel, he says, is “multi-dimensional,” from education to vacation to business, with the lines being blurred often on the same trip. And the university ties that have developed between Atlanta and the country through the study of its antiquities, literature, language, poetry and history can translate into tourism demand.
“It is different discussing how the Parthenon was built and being there. If you combine both, it is optimal because it creates a connection between the person and the land as well,” he said. “It is something which can create bonds with the country.”
He’s still in the process of researching where Greece fits into the tourism landscape of the South, especially given that the pandemic has limited in-person interactions mostly to one-on-one settings rather than the customary receptions and dinners that usually welcome diplomatic arrivals. He has, however, made contact with the Greek Orthodox Metropolis Atlanta, the church, school and community center on Clairmont Road that has become the epicenter of Greek cultural life in the city.
Despite his immediate focus on tourism, Mr. Dimopoulos’s academic expertise is in security and defense. He studied international and European studies at the University of Piraeus, then went on to earn a master’s in security and defense France. In 2017, he was selected for defense and diplomacy leadership program at Tufts University. He took up the posting in Moscow that same year.
For someone who had written extensively about Eurasian issues, it made sense to get hands-on experience in place he had known only theoretically. Russia, he said, carries reminders of Europe, but it defies easy categorization, especially when it comes to the local mentality.
“I don’t want to put too much mystery into it, but it is not Europe, nor Asia. It is a strange mixture,” he said. “I think the term that would describe them better is Eurasian.”
He comes by his interest in world affairs naturally. With a father who was a fighter pilot in the Hellenic Air Force who served in NATO as well, Mr. Dimopoulos gained exposure to terms like “disarmament” early on, he says.
And moving around the world?
“Nothing new,” he said as he awaited a shipment of his belongings from Moscow.
The Atlanta posting was less obvious, but he’d heard good things about the city from a colleague in Russia who had served here, and friends had told him about a major Greek company, gaming and lottery technology firm Intralot, which has a large metro-area office.
Of course, the Olympics, CNN, Delta, Coca-Cola and other aspects of the city were well-known, but he’s looking forward to forging deeper connections.
Mr. Dimopoulos replaces former Greek Consul Emmanouil (Manolis) Androulakis.