Philadelphia, PA – Twelve years ago this past week, Philadelphia’s own, Sotirios Maniatis carried the Olympic torch at the Athens 2004 games. By the time it returned to Greece from its trip around the world, it was on its final leg to the opening ceremony. The flame had journeyed through five continents, 26 countries, 34 cities and changed hands some 3,600 times. On August 13th, the last day of the Olympic Torch Relay, Maniatis was given the flame to carry and was celebrated in two home cities, Athens, Greece and Philadelphia, USA.
It was April of 2004 when Maniatis received a call from the Olympic Committee saying he was selected to carry the flame in his hometown of Maroussi, Greece, a suburb of Athens. Maniatis would be there on a summer visit like he did every year. At the time, sponsors and organizers had sought out individuals who, through their commitment to their communities, came to embody the Olympic Torch Relay’s “search for the best in humanity”. When Maniatis heard the news, he said he felt a great sense of pride and was honored to represent both Greece and America in the relay. It was a bittersweet moment for Maniatis who added, “If my parents were still around, I know they would be very proud.”
That year, Maniatis was the President of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley and was on the board of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby. Maniatis, now 74, had moved to America when he was 23. Maniatis gave much of his time to church and community. He became an American citizen in 1981 and had been a resident of Delaware County for more than half a century. He settled and spent much of his early years in the historic Greek community of Upper Darby and now lives in Glen Mills Pennsylvania. He is the owner of Concord Pizza and continues to be involved as a member of the Greek communities many organizations around Philadelphia.
He continues to visit Greece every year to see family and friends but calls America home. “Greece is a beautiful country, but I came to America for a better opportunity and a better life. I have raised a family in the traditions of a Hellene I was raised on. Like the torch I carried on that day, I have passed my beliefs and customs on to my children, and hope they will look on this moment and use it to keep our culture alive”.