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By Ilias Bourgiotis and George Vecsey
Spectators is proud to announce the publication of Spectators. This collection of photographs by Ilias Bourgiotis, his first to be published in the United States, is accompanied by a perceptive and moving essay, “Modern Pilgrims”—written especially for this volume by the renowned journalist George Vecsey—which is both a generous reconsideration of the 2004 Athens Olympics and a rare homage to Greece.

As George Vecsey so astutely notes in Spectators, the Olympic Games have become a “holy ritual” of the modern world, and the spectators who voyage to them, both in winter and summer, have been transformed into “latter-day pilgrims” who “have much in common with the resourceful seekers who once made their way to temples in Delphi or Crete.” It is only appropriate, then, that Ilias Bourgiotis should have focused his camera on them and on their pilgrimage to the Athens games of 2004, which were doubly invested with ritual resonance, as they marked the “return” of the Olympics to the land of their ancient birth.

What is most astounding, and truthful, about Bourgiotis’s photos is their philosophical wisdom. Bourgiotis understands that there are few chasms in contemporary life as deep, and unbridgeable, as that between athlete and fan. Society today divides, unevenly and accidentally, between that tiny elite whose bodies are unapproachably sounder than most and the vast majority of men and women for whom physical distinction can only be a vicarious excellence. And so, that vast majority—the rest of us—stays on the sidelines, watching. Yet, as Ilias Bourgiotis’s Spectators shows, these “passive” observers are anything but. And they can be almost as exhilarated, or inconsolable, or poignant, as the young men and women who actually win or lose, and are the objects of the loyal affections of everyone gazing from the stadium seats.

About the Photographer and Author
Ilias Bourgiotis’s work has been exhibited in his native Greece, throughout Europe, and in the United States. His major photographic cycles have been published in several books, including, most prominently, Atheatê Ellada (Unseen Greece), Neoriôn—Naupêgeia Syrou (Neoriôn: Shipyards of Syros), and Eurôpaikos Notos (European South). His European South series was also the subject of two solo exhibitions in 2004 at the annual Photographic Month in Bratislava and at the Museo della Città di Collegno in Turin. Spectators is his first collection published in the United States.

George Vecsey has been writing about sport for well over forty years, more than twenty of them as a columnist for The New York Times, specializing in international sport. He has written and edited many books, on sport and other subjects, including Joy in Mudville, Martina, A Year in the Sun, and Coal Miner’s Daughter. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Hofstra University for his work and has been named New York State Sportswriter of the Year six times. George Vecsey has covered six summer Olympic Games and seven soccer World Cups, and has visited Greece three times (so far).

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