The Oceania PanHellenic Sports and Cultural Games-Melbourne 2009, Melbourne’s biggest ever Greek festival of sports and culture was launched yesterday by Victorian Minister of Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs James Merlino.

Mr Merlino will serve as Patron for the PanHellenic Games.

The launch was held at the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria on Lonsdale Street.

The PanHellenic Games are expected to attract over 600 sport women and men of Greek descent from all over Australia and New Zealand to Melbourne to compete against each other for the three-day event taking place on November 27-29.

The sports in which athletes will be able to compete in are basketball, judo, soccer, swimming, tae kwon do, tennis, track and field, water polo and wrestling.

The two major Greek football teams, South Melbourne FC and West Sydney Berries will also play a friendly match on Sunday November 29.

The major draw card for the games is expected to be the grand final of the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments on November 29, as well as plenty of free activities and food reflecting regional Greek cuisine and culture.

The Games are an initiative organised by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) which aims to unite Hellenes through cultural and sporting events.

In his address at the Games launch Victorian Minister of Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs James Merlino praised Greece and the indelible mark that it has left on the cultures of the world.

‘’And perhaps nowhere is the legacy of the Greek culture so visible as in the world of sport, where the Olympic ideal has, for millennia, pushed human beings to test the boundaries of strength and endurance.

‘’The PanHellenic Games is a continuation of that proud sporting tradition and we are honoured to hold the games here in Melbourne. “I am very honoured and proud to have been asked to be patron of the Games,’’ Mr Merlino said.

SAE Oceania and Far East Coordinator George Angelopoulos said this would be the first time in Melbourne will host the Games which have enjoyed have previously been successfully held in Adelaide and Sydney.

“The Games are a celebration of Greek Australian life and culture brought together in Melbourne, one the world’s most Greek cities outside of Greece. What better way to showcase Greek culture than through sport. After all it was the ancient Greeks who said a healthy body means a healthy mind,” Mr Angelopoulos said to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE).

Sponsors of the PanHellenic Games include among others: The General Secretariat for Hellenes Abroad, The Hellenic Post Bank. The Victorian Government and the Victorian Multicultural Commission, various financial institutions, private contributors, Greek organizations and Greek Media including Neos Kosmos.
The Games will take over the city’s major sporting precincts such Olympic Park, the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, Albert Park Tennis centre, Bob Jane Stadium and the Cretan Tennis centre.

Attendance at the sporting events which are part of the games will be free.

Participation is open to any individual or team between the ages of 16-30 who is of Greek descent and a permanent resident of Australia or New Zealand.