The paper seeks to concern itself with the research field of public sector performance measurement and to introduce the national identity as a performance factor, through a case study (Athens\' Olympic games)
The National Identity As A Motivational Factor For Better Performance In The Public Sector
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The national identity as a
motivational factor for better
performance in the public sector
The case of the volunteers of the Athens 2004
Panos Karkatsoulis and Nikos Michalopoulos
Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration, Athens, Greece, and
European Commission, Brussels, Belgium
Purpose – The paper seeks to concern itself with the research ﬁeld of public sector performance
measurement and to introduce the national identity as a performance factor, through a case study.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper attempts an innovative presentation and
identiﬁcation of the attitudes, motivations and beliefs of both Greek people and the volunteers
regarding the organisation, the success and the beneﬁts of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The paper
reviews the literature on the relation of national identity and sports and analyses the opinion polls on
the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Findings – The paper demonstrates that national identity has been the major motivational factor for
the volunteers, whose contribution represented a signiﬁcant added value to the success of the
Olympics. The measurement of performance in such a qualitative analysis is supported by
self-reported customers’ satisfaction.
Research limitations/implications – It is not a quantitative, structured and executed initial
survey, but a secondary, qualitative one.
Practical implications – The paper suggests the re-deﬁnition of the usually negatively conceived
notion of national identity, in a new managerial framework, as a performance factor.
Originality/value – This paper is original in its conception, when linking national
identity/patriotism with sports and volunteerism in the context of performance measurement, and
has a practical dimension, since it proposes tools for measuring performance in cases where a
qualitative analysis is appropriate.
Keywords Performance measures, Sports, Greece
Paper type Case study
1. Open questions for a public sector performance measurement
Going through the current bibliography on public sector performance and
productivity, one could sort the relevant concepts and the methodological and
practical tools into two major categories:
International Journal of Productivity
(1) the standard managerial ones, such as strong executive leadership, top-down and Performance Management
Vol. 54 No. 7, 2005
control, intensive inspections and strict audits, which are inspired by the pp. 579-594
economic sciences and implemented successfully, mostly in the private sector; q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
and DOI 10.1108/17410400510622241
IJPPM (2) the newer, “qualitative” ones, such as customer service, long-term strategic
54,7 planning, analysis and quality measurement of products and procedures.
It is evident that there is a growing inﬂuence of the so-called “soft” elements of
performance measurement tempering the “instrumental rationality”, which
underpinned earlier performance models. For example, the shift of human resources
580 management, to include a more cultural perspective of performance measurement
opens new, differentiated ways to understand the motivation of involved stakeholders.
It is generally accepted that subjective factors – not conceived in an
abstract/metaphysical form, where the cognitive/acting subject seems to be the last
point of analysis/measurement, but in pragmatic terms – play a crucial role in the
transformation of inputs to outputs. The study of human behaviour and human
reactions to any organisational regulation or change is absolutely necessary, if the long
sought goal of “efﬁciency” is to be achieved. In cases where organisations treat staff as
their greatest resource, they deliver outstanding performance. Where the involvement
of the workforce is absent, performance is lacklustre, customer service is poor, and
management often resort to rules and bureaucracy to try and deliver improvement.
These organisations are likely to have high labour turnover, high absenteeism and
stress causing repeated health problems, and industrial relations are likely to be
confrontational and focused on monetary reward. Before putting standards of
performance and/or relevant regulations into force, it is helpful to examine certain
socio-psychological in order to capture the “value” of the human behaviour (Ilgen and
Pulakos, 1999). Included among them are:
personal professional behaviour (including counter-productive behaviours);
collective labour performance;
. self-evaluation by employees of job satisfaction; and
direct/indirect correlations between the previous variables and concrete
If it is a fact that such factors can hardly be measured in a strictly ﬁnancial way, it is
even more difﬁcult to convert customer satisfaction from a “well performed”
administrative action into ﬁnancial-quantitative standards and to isolate its speciﬁc
value (Callahan and Holzer, 1999). In most cases, the “customer” appears under
different – often contradictory – “hats” and to measure satisfaction we need quite
differentiated tools – arising out of a ﬂexible methodology – which often do not exist
or are not used.
The above-mentioned constraints constitute some of the problematic areas in
performance measurement and, consequently, we need to enrich our measurement
instrumentarium – especially in the public sector. To repeat a well-known passage of
Since proﬁt is not the driver of public sector’s activities, mission accomplishment replaces
ﬁnancial outcomes as the organisation’s top level objective.
There has been some recent research focusing on the factors that can motivate a
collective action with signiﬁcant impact on the productivity/performance of public
agencies. These factors include trust/distrust, credibility and legitimacy relating to
organisational performance (Bouckaert, 2002).
When searching for such motivational factors, several “older”, traditional ones, National identity
which are well-known in the political/social sciences (social anthropology, ethnology,
psychology, etc.) re-emerge. Relating them to the newer notions, arising from
administrative science and management, or just setting them into a different context,
re-interprets their meaning and widens their analytical capacity.
The paper attempts to introduce this approach to the performance management of
public organisations. 581
2. The notion of national identity
The issue of national identity has been developed through a range of social theories.
Toennies’s distinction between “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft” and Weber’s
“charismatic leadership” are re-examined to identify whether they can be included in a
sociological deﬁnition and understanding of performance. The modern sociology of
emotions also contributes to this “problem area”.
National identity as a social phenomenon involves feeling proud to be the national
of a particular country, appreciating the nation’s problems and participating in
problem solving, believing the country is fulﬁlling its goals, taking personal pride and
joy in achievements, introducing oneself openly as a national, and encouraging friends
and close acquaintances to see one’s country in a positive light. Any individual might
not embrace all attributes of national identity because of social dynamics and
personality elements. How strong or weak one is in terms of national consciousness
and identity depends on inﬂuence systems (positive or negative) projected and
propagated by the nation and its people. There are differences in the general opinions
of people towards their country in different periods and in different generations. People
who grew up in a time of national solidarity, such as the second world war, might be
more likely to acquire a lifelong attachment to their nation than those who grew up in a
time of “externalism” such as when a country is seeking entry to the European
Community. A country in recession will normally see lower national pride than a
country in a boom period, ceteris paribus. Also, different amounts of information are
available to people within a country, and opinions will differ because of these differing
levels of information. It is also relatively common to see a polarity between urban and
rural areas and between regions (Matthew et al., 2000).
It is quite difﬁcult to regenerate national identity in a non-nationalistic context.
There are two particular attributes of nationalism (Tilley et al., 2005). One, which
draws most attention, is its relationship to conﬂict between nations (Hobsbawm, 1990).
The other, which has received less attention, is its role in promoting solidarity within
the nation (Colley, 1992). Nationality can thus become a basis of mutual obligation and
social solidarity: one feels obligations to one’s fellow nationals, for example to provide
for them in their old age, that one does not feel towards members of other nations. In a
related fashion, Verba (1965) has argued that shared national sentiment can provide a
basis for the legitimacy of the state. Metaphorically speaking, we can see shared
national identity as providing the social “glue that holds a nation together” (Smith and
Jarkko, 1998). As Jacobson (1997) has pointed out, there are several different aspects of
“Nationalist” has often been used as an antonym to “cosmopolitan”. Similarly, there
is an understanding that “local” (identity) is opposite to “global”, with globalisation –
by deﬁnition – implying negation of local characteristics. We are still thinking in
IJPPM mutually excluding dipoles: good-bad, right-wrong, legal-illegal, homeland-the world.
54,7 Even though during this century efforts have been made to perceive, through the
existence of networks and systems, a “third way” of understanding, where
differentiated qualities co-exist and reproduce themselves (e.g. self-referential
systems theory), we still face difﬁculties in comprehending distinguished social
values in an effective whole.
2.1 National identity as motive: making volunteering count
The issue of public mood and its crucial role as far as the psychological centrality of
identities is concerned affects public action through normative conceptions about what
it actually means. Social theory suggests that national identity constitutes one of the
prevailing factors for the motivation of stakeholders to perform.
The paper argues that, in the current context of global governance, “pre-modern”
concepts and tools, such as national identity, could have an added value to
performance, when re-deﬁned in a broad “post-modern” way. National identity,
understood as patriotism that constitutes a source of happiness and self-fulﬁlment
through altruism and voluntary contribution, could be a factor in greater performance
and productivity. All can feel patriotic: patriots often feel that they belong to a network,
where no hierarchical relations among them exist. The network is a way of
self-organising and the values of the network are recognised as personal. In that sense,
patriotism can be perceived as a cognitive and self-organising network in a complex
Furthermore, connecting patriotism with volunteering offers greater scope for
understanding both concepts. Volunteering has been, on several occasions, a
performance measurement topic with all its “instrumental” weaknesses. The essential
basis of volunteering is altruism: people dedicate their energy and time to helping
others. The hypothesis that the work of a paid employee and a volunteer can be
compared seems to us rather over-simpliﬁed. According to those who support such a
hypothesis (Anderson and Zimmerer, 2003), the dollar value of the volunteer’s time
equates to the dollar value of a paid employee’s time. Perhaps one of the most widely
used calculations for assigning a dollar value to volunteer work is the Independent
Sector’s Annual Estimate ($16,54):
The hourly value, updated yearly, is based on the average hourly earnings of all
non-agricultural workers as determined by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Independent Sector takes this ﬁgure and increases it by 12 per cent to estimate for
fringe beneﬁts (Independent Sector, 2003).
The difﬁculty with, or even inappropriateness of, quantiﬁcation of volunteering
effort in ﬁnancial terms does not negate the invaluable social contribution of
volunteering, which has been described as the “glue that holds societies together”
(Leigh, 2002). To move beyond dollar values for volunteering, there has been an
increasing emphasis on outcome or impact evaluation, measuring the impact of
volunteer services on clients on the basis of self-stated customer satisfaction.
2.2. The Olympic Games as an issue in national identity
Sport appears to permeate every level of life. Some sport organisations have assumed
the status of quasi-religious institutions. The World (Soccer) Cup and the Olympic
Games are probably the two most visible events of international stature: they ignite National identity
passions, provide for communal focus and enable an otherwise much divided world to
come together and celebrate the best that humanity has to offer (Yiannakis et al., 2003).
However, much more is celebrated during such events. We often see demonstrations
of great determination, courage and personal sacriﬁce; we see teamwork and strategy;
we see how the latest in human ingenuity manifests itself in the use of sport
technology; and we see how the demonstration of some of humanity’s core values 583
elevates the human spirit. The impact of sport does not appear to be contained solely
within the world of sport. Literature suggests that sport contributes to the quality of
life (Sheppard, 1998) and has the power to inﬂuence how people feel about themselves,
their state and their country (Yiannakis, 1994).
In the international arena, whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup, the
exposure that a nation receives on the world stage is often deemed adequate
compensation for all the investment that has to be made to prepare and send teams to
such prestigious international events. The major recipients of the beneﬁts of such
exposure, however, are the nations that produce the winners and the world record
breakers. As a result of the public relations impact from demonstrating such excellence
on the world stage, these nations often enjoy high prestige, which is believed to
translate into signiﬁcant economic, political and socio-cultural beneﬁts. Such success
also contributes greatly to enhancing national pride (Calgary Report, 1988; Johnston,
1985; Ritchie and Lyons, 1990).
Hosting world-class events such as the Olympic Games, is another way to beneﬁt
from such exposure. While the immediate economic beneﬁts may not always be
evident (in some cases the cost of producing such spectacles may be greater than the
immediate economic beneﬁts), the exposure that the host nation receives ultimately
translates into a variety of both tangible and intangible beneﬁts. These beneﬁts include
increased tourism money and goodwill toward the host nation, enhanced political
inﬂuence abroad, increased foreign exports, increased prestige in the eyes of the world,
and more (Johnston, 1985; Ritchie and Lyons, 1990). They may also help educate the
rest of the world about who you are, and what your country has to offer.
Sports have a speciﬁc contribution to national pride and to national identity. Today,
there is a developed literature on the relationship between sports (Olympic Games
especially) and the fostering of national identities (Ikhioya, 2001). The modern era of
the Olympic Games, starting in 1896, experienced a transformation from city-state
expectations and aspirations to expectations and aspirations of nations.
Reasons why nations participate in the Olympics include:
to be known and recognised in terms of the nation’s unique attributes and status;
to provide opportunities for political, social, and economic diplomacy;
to secure release from political, social, and economic problems – at least for the
period the games last;
to enhance image and credibility of national governments and their people;
to be known as a sovereign and independent nation among other nations; and
to show the world the nature and vibrancy of the nation’s youth – men and
women of unique and superior status and inﬂuence in terms of vitality and
IJPPM The Olympic Games reinforce these attributes when nations participate. Successes in
54,7 the Olympics instil credibility to national governments, increase sense of belonging
and identity among the populace and afford opportunities for nations to be identiﬁed in
terms of international awareness and recognition in building international conﬁdence,
friendships and cooperation. Winning the right to host the Olympic Games implies
mobilisation and reorientation of both government agencies and the populace. It is a
584 period for a host nation to show the worth and strength of its people, including
resources and values and in this way national identity can also be fostered.
3. Athens 2004 Olympic Games
As the smallest country to host the biggest ever Olympic Games (a record 202 nations
participated in the 28th Olympiad) “Greece has not been given enough credit”
(statements of foreign specialists, involved in the preparations, to “The Observer”).
These games broke a number of records. Athens hosted 11,099 athletes, the largest
number ever, including the largest number of women athletes ever. The Olympic ﬂame
travelled for the ﬁrst time to all continents, allowing 260 million people to see it in their
city. The shot put was held in Olympia and women competed there for the ﬁrst time.
Four billion viewers all over the world watched the Athens games.
The “makeover” of the city of Athens was impressive. Massive EU-funded works,
that might otherwise never have been completed, have rejuvenated the capital. Fears of
the notorious trafﬁc congestion stopping spectators even getting to venues were
quashed with the creation of one of Europe’s most sophisticated transport systems and
a spectacular archaeological park united its cultural treasures. Greece has invested
heavily in new roads and highways, in a brand new world-class airport, in a brand new
metro system, in new hotels and in a program of refurbishment of historic buildings
and sites. It has built new sports facilities and upgraded existing ones, intended to be
available for use by the nation after the games. The effects of such development on
Greece, and on Athens in particular, are expected to make a signiﬁcant impact on the
quality of life in the longer term, on easing trafﬁc congestion and pollution, on tourism
and on national pride. As has been said:
The true legacy of the games is the sense of accomplishment and pride among the citizenry
Today, the Athens 2004 Olympics are recognised world-wide as probably the best in
modern times. Praise has come from the most testing of critics – the athletes
themselves. Athens rolled out an elaborate test-event programme that enabled
international sports federations to get a ﬁrst-hand feel of the facilities. And most
concurred that the venues were world-class. Andrew Ryan, the chief operating ofﬁcer
of the International Badminton Federation, enthused:
We believe that the Goudi hall will be the best-ever venue for badminton at an Olympiad.
The Greeks were forced to implement unprecedented security measures as hosts of the
ﬁrst, post-11 September, summer games. At around e1.2 billion, Athens spent four
times more on security than Sydney in 2000. David Riordan, an Australian who helped
train Athens’s 100,000-strong Olympic workforce, said:
Sydney was a great success but I’ve no doubt these games will be just as great. They’ll have a
sense of history, culture and mood that no other city has offered before. Given what has been
happening since 11 September, and that this is the ﬁrst time the world will be coming National identity
together, it makes the games even more meaningful. It’s very ﬁtting that Athens should be
Herman Frazier, Chief of Mission of the 2004 US Olympic Team thanked Athens 2004
Because they’ve done a great job of hosting these games. 585
Athens 2004 President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, was presented with the IOC
Woman of the Year in Sports for 2004, the European Achiever of the Year Award for
2004 and the gold medal of the International Special Olympics Committee.
Jacques Rogge, the president of IOC, said at the end of the games: “The Greek people
have won!” and indeed they had. Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of IOC,
admitted that “Athens organised fantastic, amazing Olympic Games” and now Athens
2004 exports Olympic know-how to Beijing and to candidate cities for future Olympic
3.1 The Hellenic identity as a new national ideology: its impact on the volunteers
In this paper we focus on the affective aspect, the degree to which volunteers as
individuals have emotional bonds with their nation and how that inﬂuences their
In that context, the paper seeks to identify how the special Hellenic values (i.e.
tolerance, sense of measure, solidarity, repulsion to violence and formalism and human
dignity) co-existed harmoniously with the “modern” managerial values (economy,
effectiveness, efﬁciency) that are essential for the successful implementation of a
project of the magnitude of the Olympic Games.
That harmony would have been impossible without political and social consensus
around a “national goal”. This, in fact, constitutes a new ideology for modern Hellas.
It was hoped that the Athens 2004 Olympic Games would be a catalyst in changing
the image of the country abroad and a locomotive for the modernisation of
infrastructure and the development of economic, commercial and tourist transactions
(V-PRC, 2004). Public opinion polls showed right from the beginning a high acceptance
of the Olympic Games, and high regard for the organising committee, the ATHOC.
From the data of the Weekly Barometer of Telephonic Interviews undertaken by the
consortium MRB-VPRC-RI in the period between 21/2/2003-10/1/2004, it is evident that
the “ideological-vision” of the games was both shared and intense in Hellenic Society
(V-PRC, 2004). This supports the view that there is a long-standing relationship
between sports (especially the Olympic Games) and “national pride”. This feeling of
pride and support for the games crossed all age, local and political boundaries (V-PRC,
This immense social consensus around the ideological and political dimensions of
the games constituted a precondition for the signiﬁcant numbers expressing a desire to
make a participatory contribution to the games, even though Greece is a country with a
low tradition of volunteerism and weak (until today) in terms of volunteer and
non-governmental organisations. The numbers of volunteers, their performance and
the quality of their work play an important role in the organisation and cost of the
games, as well as contributing to the overall impression given of the organising
IJPPM country; this represents one of the key criteria of success of the modern Olympic
3.2 ATHOC, 2004 as a public organisation
The aim of ATHENS 2004 as a public entity was to deliver the beneﬁts that are
586 commensurate with the major investment in the Olympic Games.
The mission of the ATHOC, 2004 was:
to organise a technically excellent Olympic Games;
to provide to the athletes, spectators, viewers and volunteers a unique Olympic
experience, thus leaving behind a legacy for the Olympic movement;
to display the Olympic ideals in a contemporary setting through their traditional
to promote and implement the Olympic truce through the torch relay;
to control the commercial aspect of the Olympic Games;
to promote the cultural and natural heritage of Greece to the eyes of the world;
to showcase the achievements of modern Greece and its potential for the future;
to protect and enhance the natural environment and promote environmental
to promote the beneﬁts of the games throughout the country.
The organisation’s values were envisaged in: “celebration”, “human scale”, “heritage”
and “participation”. With renewed civic pride, a massive surge in volunteerism and the
return of the Olympic Games to their ancient birthplace, ATHOC, 2004 aspired to leave
the legacy of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games to the world.
ATHOC, 2004 as an organisation set the following values and motivational
messages for its employees/volunteers, and the Greek people in general, in its
The case of Greece, as far as its relationship with the Olympic Games is concerned,
is unique. The main message: “the games return back home”, signiﬁed clearly the
difference of Greece: the small country that offered its heritage to the rest of the
world and, centuries after, re-animated the idea of the Olympics in the modern
age, was about to host them once more.
The human being is the measure of everything. The central message of the
Hellenic philosophy became the leading ethical, and at the same time, operational
imperative for the games. Against the gigantism and commercialisation of the
games, the ethical value of human endeavour and “fair play” (“1y agvnız1suai”)
gave a different perspective to the Olympic Games in the current world.
The Olympic Games are all a matter of participation. The more people, the better!
The games became not only an experts-issue, but a forum where the largest
possible participation was a measure and a guarantee of success.
The Olympic Games is the biggest celebration in the world. Athens 2004 Olympic
Games were an event of happy encounters and optimism, a challenge for
humanity to demonstrate that people can compete peacefully.
The various conjectural applications of the games were based on these values: the National identity
emblem of the games, the mascots, the iconogramms, the medals and the Olympic
torch were designed both to appeal aesthetically, particularly to Greek citizens, and to
“speak to their hearts”, motivating them towards stronger participation and
performance. There was, in fact, an evolution of this design process: in the
beginning there was a tendency to base designs on the classic patterns of the ancient
civilization. This approach was later abandoned in favour of a post-modern synthesis 587
of antiquity and archetypes. This change was popular with a majority of the
population (especially young people), who saw in these changes an expression of new
perceptions and an integration of the past into the present.
As has been mentioned already, the ATHOC, 2004 followed previous the principles
and values above when designing the volunteering policy, building upon them with
managerial tools and priorities. The following shows the approach to the recruitment
and management of the volunteering process:
the selection of volunteers was based on merit;
a personal interview was followed by training;
the people and their diversity were valued;
working in partnership was promoted; and
. open and communicative methods were used.
3.3 The volunteers in ATHOC, 2004
The massive participation of people in the volunteering program of the ATHOC, 2004
suggests that the approach was practical and lucid.
The number of volunteers in Athens was, especially considering the size of the
population, impressive, larger than ever before: 65,000 volunteers in Athens, against
35,000 volunteers in Barcelona, 60,500 in Atlanta and 47,000 in Sydney.
It is noteworthy that overall 160,000 people applied for the original 45,000 positions.
This is a record number in comparison with the 76,000 applications for Sydney and the
78,000 applications for the Atlanta Olympic Games. The applicants were 55 per cent
women and 45 per cent men. A total of 78 per cent of the candidates were 35 years old
or younger, and 41 per cent of applicants were highly educated. A total of 65 per cent of
the applicants were residents of Greece, 9.5 per cent were Greeks residing in other
countries and 25.5 per cent were nationals of 188 different countries, the most from the
US, then Spain and Germany. More than 90,000 interviews were conducted among the
candidates to select the volunteers that would participate in the corps (ATHOC, 2004).
A total of 70 per cent of the potential volunteers for the Athens Olympic Games
were applying for the ﬁrst time ever to a volunteer program of any kind. A total of 21
per cent of the young people aged 15-17 years declared in face to face interviews
conducted in 2003, a “great interest” in volunteering, while the respective percentage in
the age group of 18-24 year olds was 12.1 per cent. The percentage was equally high
among students and the unemployed (19.6 per cent and 16 per cent respectively). In the
older age-groups the percentage of those “very interested” varied from 5 per cent
(citizens over 65 year-old) to 8 per cent (35-44 year-olds).
Also very interesting is the partial differentiation in motive among the applicants.
From the younger group (15-17 years-old) through to the older (over 65) interviewees
expressed patriotic reasons for volunteering (“to serve my country”). However, the
IJPPM 18-24 year old group – which constituted the “hard core” of volunteers – declared that,
54,7 in addition to this widely-held motive (34.3 per cent), a more pragmatic one existed –
that of professional experience (25.9 per cent) (V-PRC, 2004).
Some interesting facts about the perceptions and the general attitude of candidate
volunteers for the Olympic Games, in relation to their pride in the nation and their
psychological ties to it, emerged from an opinion poll conducted throughout all parts of
588 Greece between 15 March and 15 April 2004, by the MRB, V-PRC and Research
International (2004b) joint venture, an ATHENS 2004 partner. The poll was conducted
among a sample of 2,000 individuals aged 18 through 65, who had submitted
applications for the Organising Committee’s Olympic Volunteer Programme, some of
them being accepted and accredited.
The survey suggested that Greeks did indeed feel proud of their country and that
the psychological ties binding them were on the whole strong. Volunteers were
generally strenuously patriotic when abstract concepts like pride, sense of belonging
and “what Greece means to them” were mentioned. People were willing to work for the
Olympic Games without getting paid, suggesting that this “national pride” was more
than mere rhetoric; they placed notions like pride above their economic well-being.
In more details, the survey showed that the attitude of the candidate volunteers
towards the Olympic Games was extremely positive. They believed these games to be
of special importance to Greece and the games to be “quite important” or “very
important” for them (95.2 per cent). They found themselves directly affected by the
holding of the games. A total of 81.7 per cent of the volunteers declared that the
Olympics concerned them directly as Greeks. The percentage was higher for women
candidate volunteers (83.2 per cent) than for men (79.5 per cent). In Athens, the
percentage was 84.4 per cent, while for the rest of Greece it was somewhat lower (73.5
per cent) – except in Volos, where it rose to 85.0 per cent. By age group, those
identifying the games as particularly important for them constituted 85.1 per cent for
ages 18-19, 87 per cent for ages 40-49, and as much as 90 per cent for those over 60.
Candidate volunteers saw their participation as essential to the games’ success. One
in three said they had served as volunteers in the past. This means that two-thirds
were coming forward as volunteers for the ﬁrst time in their lives, motivated by the
presence of the Olympic Games in Greece and their chance to contribute.
Two-thirds of candidate volunteers said they would like to continue voluntary
service in other sectors of society after the Olympic and Special Olympics Games.
Though the wish to serve as volunteers after the games was evident in all age groups,
it is notable that the percentage was over 80 per cent for ages 50-59 and the over-60s.
This is surely a signiﬁcant legacy of the Athens Olympics. It suggests that the
Olympic Volunteers Programme has helped strengthen a sense of community service
in Greek society that is left to be exploited by the state and other public bodies.
Responses indicated that the three main reasons for serving as an Olympic
(1) Making a contribution to the motherland.
(2) Enjoying the unique opportunity to participate in such an experience.
(3) The importance of the objective.
The positive attitude of candidate volunteers towards the games emerges from some
revealing phrases used. “The games are a watershed in the history of Greece”. “The
Olympic Games are important because they are returning to the land that gave them National identity
birth”. “It is a unique opportunity for Greece to be promoted all over the world”. “The
event will require sacriﬁce but, in the end, it will be Greece that will beneﬁt”. To the
question “how important do you consider the volunteers contribution to the success of
the games to be?”, 92.4 per cent replied “extremely important.”
The answers to the question “what do you consider the main beneﬁts to Greece from
hosting the Olympic Games?” were, in descending order of frequency: public 589
infrastructure works; promotion of Greece abroad; and boosting of Greek tourism.
There were no attempts to cross-validate the results of this survey by including
details on the time frame as well as the national and economic backdrop in which it
was conducted. However, the general mood and performance of the Hellenic nation at
the time may have had an inﬂuence. The nation was undergoing improved economic
performance and the national team had recently won the European (Soccer) Cup; pride
had already been given a boost.
Volunteers were employed on average for ten hours per day, for seven to ten days
during the 14 days of the Olympic Games (or Special Olympics). Their main areas of
medical services and doping control;
Olympic youth camp;
opening and closing ceremonies;
tourism and hospitality.
Following the “instrumental” logic of equalising the compensation of a volunteer with
that of a paid employee, interesting results may come out as far as the added value of
their contribution is concerned.
Their presence and their appearance was valued. They were collectively considered
to be one of the best-trained and most helpful “corps of volunteers” seen at an
IJPPM Olympics. All were dressed in an attractive, common uniform making the “most
54,7 cheerful corps of volunteers in memory” (Powers, 2004). As spectators left the stadium
and the Olympic grounds, dozens of well-groomed and cordial staff called out from
judges chairs “good night”, “goodbye”, “sweet dreams”, “travel safely” and other such
hospitable farewells (Rosandich, 2004).
Taken together, the statements of visitors, guests and experts do suggest that it was
590 national pride that mainly motivated the Greeks (people, government, organisers and
volunteers) to successfully organise the Olympics – and, in turn, the success of the
games, contributed to their justiﬁable pride. It was “the joy, the passion, the easygoing
skill of the Greeks”, in other words, “the irresistible Hellenic ﬂavour” (Powers, 2004)
that made this Olympics successful.
The Sydney games had already shown the importance of volunteers; they made a
very important contribution at the success of the Sydney games; in Atlanta, as in
Sydney, the Olympic Volunteer Programme relied on a large, well-organised pool of
volunteers. Greece had no civic tradition of volunteering and many had feared the
worse. But Riordan, who also worked with volunteers, said he had been genuinely
struck by just how “helpful, friendly and capable”, they had been. “They’re a much
younger group, all bilingual and very willing. At the end of the day, it’s they who are
going to be the face of Greece. What some four and a half billion television viewers are
going to see”.
The World Federation of Aquatic Sports (FINA) president Mustapha Larfaoui
presented the federation’s highest distinction, the FINA Order, to the Athens 2004
Organising Committee (ATHOC) Chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki for her
contribution, and that of her staff and the ATHOC volunteers, to the aquatic sport
events at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. FINA said in an announcement:
This award represents FINA’s highest recognition to the President of ATHOC, her
collaborators and especially the volunteers for their participation in the organisation of
aquatic sports (swimming, water polo, diving and synchronised swimming), leading to the
great FINA success here in Athens.
In presenting the award, Larfaoui said that the volunteers were the soul of the Athens
games and had contributed to the maximum to the smooth organisation of all the
aquatic sports: the swimming competitions and the other three pool events.
USOC praised Athens for the success of the games, Chairman of the US Olympic
Committee Board of Directors, Peter Ueberroth, said during a press conference in
Athens at the closure of the XVIII Olympiad:
It was a great games. History will record that these games are among the greatest, if not the
greatest games of all time.
Ueberroth thanked Athenians and the Greeks in general for the gift they had provided,
on behalf of the USOC and the American people. He thanked the volunteers who put
their life on hold for a short time in order to provide their services selﬂessly:
Everyone thanks the volunteers, but you have to focus for a moment on these people, who
have given up a month of their lives to train and perform for nothing – no tickets or anything,
but to make their country proud. They have done that indeed. To the Olympic ofﬁcials and to
the citizens of Greece, who have proven that this is a friendly country, a successful country, a
country to be proud of.
Athens is a “safe destination” (74.6 per cent), Greece is a “modern European Country” National identity
(72.3 per cent) that organised “technically excellent” Olympic Games (64.6 per cent)
with a “human dimension” (66.2 per cent). This is the new “Hellenic identity” that
emerges after the hosting of the games of the XXVIII Olympiad (Vernardakis, 2004), as
perceived by citizens in ﬁve countries (the US, the UK, Spain, Germany and France)
and reﬂected in the above results of a public opinion poll conducted in these countries
in September 2004 on behalf of ATHOC, 2004 by a consortium consisting of MRB, 591
V-PRC and Research International (2004c). More speciﬁcally, the survey was carried
out in the period from 1-22 September 2004 in the US (1,001 respondents), Spain (502
respondents), Germany (507 respondents), the UK (519 respondents) and France (502
respondents). It was a telephone survey conducted in accordance with the Codes of
Practice laid down by the Association of Greek Market and Opinion Research
Companies (SEDEA) and ESOMAR. The respondents were selected at random from
among the adult members of every household, following a random calling process.
In total, the Olympic Games of Athens were characterised as successful by a
percentage of the respondents that ranges from 94 to 97 per cent, while 40 per cent of all
respondents considered the Athens games to be the best games ever organised in the
history of the modern Olympic Games. More speciﬁcally, 35 per cent of respondents in the
US found the games successful, with 59.3 per cent ﬁnding them very successful. In
Europe, 52.8 per cent of the respondents believed the games were successful and 44 per
cent very successful. In the UK 59 per cent found the games very successful and 38 per cent
successful. In Germany, 62.7 per cent believed they were successful and 32.5 per cent very
successful. A total of 58.4 per cent of Spanish respondents considered the games
successful with 38.8 per cent ﬁnding them very successful. Finally in France, 53 per cent
found that the games were successful and 45.2 per cent very successful.
These survey results also show that the majority of respondents felt “more positive”
about Greece after the games, based on what they saw or heard during that period, and
that there are increased positive opinions about Greece. The data collected allow the
conclusion to be drawn that, after the success of the games, Greece has strengthened
the future of its tourism industry. Indeed, 38.7 per cent of Americans expressed their
intention to visit Greece in the future, with 49.2 per cent of Europeans expressing the
same intention, both ranking Greece as their second most popular destination after
Italy. In terms of their intention to travel to Greece for their holidays, Germans
represent the largest “client-base”.
That the undertaking of the 2004 Athens Olympics was wholly successful is also
the conclusion drawn from a games-time poll by the consortium MRB, V-PRC and
Research International (2004a). The focus of the poll was the level of satisfaction of
games spectators, 96 per cent of whom were totally satisﬁed by the volunteers and the
organisers of the games as far as the quality of service within the Olympic venues was
concerned. The percentage remains the same when the analysis is based on nationality
and age. That means that all age-groups, as well as both Greeks and foreign residents
in Greece were totally satisﬁed by the work of the volunteers.
In particular, the exit poll was conducted on a statistically signiﬁcant sample of
5,028 Greek and foreign spectators at all stadiums in Attica. It is striking that there is
no difference between the percentage of Greek and foreign visitors that were
completely satisﬁed and quite satisﬁed with the sport they had watched (95.2 per cent
and 94.4 per cent respectively), nor among age groups (percentage ranges between 93.4
IJPPM per cent and 96.3 per cent). Percentages were similarly high for visitor satisfaction with
54,7 the opening and closing ceremonies, or with the infrastructure (stadiums and other
venues) (above 95 per cent).
The most critical element in the success of the Athens Olympic Games was, almost
by deﬁnition, the human factor. The poll implied that the organisation (the ATHENS
2004 workforce) and its volunteers were fully alive to their responsibilities and strained
592 every nerve in order that the Olympic Games should be executed ﬂawlessly. Thus 96
per cent of spectators polled said they were completely satisﬁed and/or quite satisﬁed
with the stadium personnel (97.1 per cent for Greeks, 95.4 per cent for foreigners).
Similarly, Greek and foreign visitors to the games commented favourably on the
people they had been meeting and keeping company with (96.2 per cent satisﬁed), with
only 2.9 per cent commenting unfavourably. Among visitors as a whole, 96.8 per cent
had quite positive or very positive feelings towards Greece. Most positive of all were
spectators from Latin America (83.7 per cent), Africa (81 per cent), the UK (80.5 per
cent), and the US (78.3 per cent), while the lowest percentage of very positive feelings
towards Greece belonged to spectators from Turkey (40 per cent), though as many as
53.3 per cent of them did express quite positive feelings.
A separate nation-wide survey conducted in Greece on a sample of 2,000 citizens
after the end of the Olympic Games, in September 2004, showed that the majority of
Greeks believes that the success of the Olympics has enhanced perceptibly the position
of Greece on the international stage. To the question “compared to one year before, the
position of our country internationally has become more powerful, weaker, or remained
the same?” 58 per cent of the respondents expressed the view that Greece’s position on
an international level is now more powerful. This view is complemented by the opinion
that the successful organisation of the Olympic Games was of beneﬁt to the country, an
opinion shared by 72.3 per cent of the citizens who participated in the survey. A
percentage of 79.2 of the respondents expressed the view that “undertaking to host the
games was the right choice for Greece”, with only one in ten respondents holding an
opposite view (10.9 per cent).
4. Concluding remarks
The quality of the games was praised by all competent international organisations and
the international press. IOC characterised the Athens Olympics as “unique” and
“dream games”, the international public broke all records of TV viewing and the
numbers of international donors and athletes reached their peak.
We believe that the Athens 2004 Olympic Games provide evidence of the added
value of the Hellenic identity as far as the motivation of the volunteers for increased
productivity is concerned. It has already been shown that national identity was a major
driving force of the volunteers in overcoming the difﬁculties of a very complicated
project. The analysis of personal interviews and commentary on everyday operations
verify, in our view, the crucial role of “Hellenism” in this motivation. This was achieved
by accentuating the core values that are an enduring strength of the Greek people and
by raising the capacity of the volunteers to secure outcomes and to adapt to changing
National identity is enriching national pride and, consequently, pride strongly
motivates people to work. However, the actual performance is still to be measured in a
more detailed analysis of their offer.
National identity, re-deﬁned as a “distinction” between the collective consciousness National identity
and its global environment, can function as a strong vision for different stakeholders in
front of complicated, ambitious political and economic projects and consequently as a
Anderson, P. and Zimmerer, M. (2003), “Dollar value of volunteer time: a review of ﬁve
estimation methods”, The Journal for Volunteer Administration, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 39-44.
ATHOC (2004), available at: www.athens2004.gr
Bouckaert, G. (2002), Identity versus Performance: An Overview of Theories Explaining Trust in
Government, Public Management Institute, Leuven.
Calgary Report (1988), XVth Olympic Winter Games: Final Olympic Report, City of Calgary,
Callahan, K. and Holzer, M. (1999), “Results-oriented government: citizen involvement in
performance measurement”, in Halachmi, A. (Ed.), Performance and Quality Measurement
in Government: Issues and Experiences, Chatelaine Press, Burke, VA, pp. 51-64.
Colley, L. (1992), Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Hobsbawm, E.J. (1990), Nations and Nationalism since 1780, Cambridge University Press,
Ikhioya, O.S. (2001), “Olympic Games as instruments in fostering national identities”, available
Ilgen, D. and Pulakos, E. (1999), The Changing Nature of Performance, Jossey-Bass Publishers,
San Francisco, CA, pp. 399-429.
Independent Sector (2003), available at: www.independentsector.ofg.media/voltime03pr.htlm
Jacobson, J. (1997), “Perceptions of Britishness”, Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 3, pp. 181-99.
Johnston, F. (1985), “The economic impacts of the XVth Olympic Winter Games”, Travel and
Tourism Research Association Proceedings, (Canada Chapter), Alberta, pp. 82-105.
Leigh, R. (2002), “Making volunteering count”, presentation in United Nations Volunteers,
Association of Volunteer Service, Seminar on Volunteer Service, Hong Kong, 9 November,
available at: www.unv.org/infobase/speeches/2002/02_11_09HKG_volserv.htm
Matthew, C.S.J., Stanley, G.Y.-M. and Kiat, L.T. (2000), “An in-depth evaluation of survey on
national pride and citizens’ psychological ties to the nation”, Straits Times, Institute of
Policy Studies (IPS), 19 February, available at: www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/quantitative/
Mintzberg, H. (1996), “Managing government, governing management”, Harvard Business
Review, Vol. 74 No. 3, pp. 75-83.
MRB, V-PRC and Research International (2004a), “Visitor satisfaction (VSM) poll results: what
spectators thought of the Athens Olympics”, available at: www.mediainfo2004.gr/cgibin/
hweb?-A ¼ 1804&-V ¼ news&-w =
MRB, V-PRC and Research International (2004b), “Nation-wide survey on Olympic volunteers”,
available at: www.sportsfeatures.com/PressPoint/showphp?id ¼ 7636
MRB, V-PRC and Research International (2004c), “How Greece is perceived by the citizens of ﬁve
major countries: the new Greek ‘identity’”, report presented at the Conference “Athens
Olympic Games 2004: Evaluation and Perspectives”, Athens, 18 November, available at:
IJPPM Powers, J. (2004), “Greece was game: defying skeptics, undaunted nation delivers a winner”,
Boston Globe, 30 August.
54,7 Ritchie, J. and Lyons, M. (1990), “Olympulse VI: a post-event assessment of resident reaction to
the XVth Olympic Winter Games”, Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 14-23.
Rosandich, T.P. (2004), “The Olympic odyssey”, The Sports Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3, available at:
594 Sheppard, R. (1998), “Sport, leisure and wellbeing: an ergonomics perspective”, Ergonomics,
Vol. 31 No. 11, pp. 1501-17.
Smith, T.W. and Jarkko, L. (1998), “National pride: a cross-national analysis”, GSS, Report no. 19,
NORC, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Tilley, J.R., Heath, A.F. and Exley, S.R. (2005), “The decline of British national pride”, available
Verba, S. (1965), “Conclusion: comparative political culture”, in Pye, L.W. and Verba, S. (Eds),
Political Culture and Political Development, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Vernardakis, C. (2004), “Governance and Olympic Games”, Conference “Athens Olympic Games
2004: Evaluation and Perspectives”, Athens, 18 November.
V-PRC (2004), “The Greek public opinion and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games”, Communication
Issues, Vol. 1, pp. 79-92.
Yiannakis, A. (1994), “The perceived impacts of UConn basketball on the residents of the state of
Connecticut”, Laboratory for Leisure, Tourism & Sport, University of Connecticut, Storrs,
CT, (abridged version of unpublished article posted at: http://playlab.uconn.edu/bball.
Yiannakis, A., Douvis, J. and Murdy, J. (2003), “Perceived impacts of sport”, available at: http://