‘The Navarino Challenge is the Best Example to Promote Sports Tourism in Greece’ – Interview with Tae Kwon Do Icon Alexandros Nikolaidis
Greek Tae Kwon Do icon Alexandros Nikolaidis is one of the faces of Greece’s “Navarino Challenge” sport event and speaks about health, fitness and tourism
The “Navarino Challenge”, organized by Active Media Group, returns for the fourth consecutive year in Greece on September 9-11. Τhe three-day event, to take place in Messinia and Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese, aims to raise awareness of the fight against childhood obesity through the Messinian diet and physical exercise.
In its fourth year, the “Navarino Challenge” invites people of all ages to compete in a vast array of sports activities that include running, swimming, climbing, bike-riding, pilates, boccia, basketball, kick boxing and Tae Kwon Do.
Tae Kwon Do in the spotlight
Alexandros Nikolaidis, twice Silver Olympic medalist in Tae Kwon Do, is an ambassador of the event and will be giving lessons of the Korean martial art to participants.
With two silver Olympic medals (in 2004 and 2008) under his belt, being the first torch-bearer of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay and carrying the Greek flag during the Parade of Nations at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the Thessaloniki-born athlete aims to play an important role in tying sport to social good.
“I got involved (in the Navarino Challenge) first of all because I believe in its cause… I strongly believe that all Olympic athletes have the duty to keep inspiring people in life and in sports, even after they finish their career”, Mr Nikolaidis tells the Greek Travel Pages (GTP).
According to Mr Nikolaidis, the “Navarino Challenge” as an event is also the best example to promote sports tourism — and show how it’s done correctly — in Greece.
“Greece has already some of the best tourism choices for vacation in the whole world, so I cannot imagine why we shouldn’t try and manage to create such events with total success”, he adds.
Alexandros Nikolaidis speaks about the “Navarino Challenge” and Greece
- GTP: The “Navarino Challenge” aims to raise awareness on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and on the global issue of childhood obesity and Tae Kwon Do is included in the weekend activities. Can childhood obesity be fought through the art of Tae Kwon Do?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: Of course. Any kind of exercise along with healthy diet is capable of fighting obesity, especially Tae Kwon Do which is an individual sport that requires high levels of energy for every day training and competing. Do not forget that it is an Olympic sport which is really loved in South Korea but also in Iran, France, Mexico, Denmark etc.
- GTP: What is your philosophy as a Tae Kwon Do instructor?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: Tae Kwon Do is a sport based on pure discipline, as every sport should be, due to its martial arts origin. Being an athlete that practices the sport since the age 3 until the age of 35, my philosophy couldn’t be different than that. Pure discipline sets the foundations for an athlete that wants to learn every sport in the most efficient way, so you could say that I am a disciplinarian.
- GTP: Please share some career highlights with our readers.
Alexandros Nikolaidis: I finished my fighting career in 2013, and I feel very blessed for all my moments and highlights throughout these years. I am not pretty sure which one to pick out of them, as this is a very difficult choice. Competing-wise, I would say of course my two Olympic medals in 2004 and 2008. As a career highlight I think I would choose the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where I was the flag bearer of the Greek Olympic Team. This one was a very difficult to choose though, as in 2008 I was the First Torchbearer in Ancient Olympia.
- GTP: You were the first torch-bearer of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay and carried the flag for Greece during the Parade of Nations at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Please describe the feeling of these experiences.
Alexandros Nikolaidis: I wish there was a way to describe them as they were. First of all, I was very proud of myself. As a kid when I was watching the Olympic Games, I never thought or even imagined that at some point of my life, I would have the honor to be that person to hold the flag of my country in the Opening Ceremony, or to be the first one that holds the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia. Pride, fulfillment, completion, infinite happiness, goose bumps and a lot of anxiety.
- GTP: How did you become involved in the “Navarino Challenge” event and, in your opinion, why was Messinia selected as the host destination?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: I got involved first of all because I believe in its cause. Then Akis Tsolis and Peter Poulos reached me and shared their vision for Navarino Challenge. I strongly believe that all Olympic athletes have the duty to keep inspiring people in life and in sports, even after they finish their career. I was inspiring people back in the days I was competing, now it’s time for me to reach out to people that have a much more casual relationship with sports. Messinia is one of the most beautiful destinations in Greece, with a lot of agriculture that is perfectly suitable for the healthy Mediterranean diet we try to inspire people to follow.
- GTP: Please describe what the Navarino Challenge Tae Kwon Do learning activity includes.
Alexandros Nikolaidis: We have two daily classes in the weekend; one of them is for Tae Kwon Do athletes who already practice the sport, from respective Clubs of Messinia. The second one is from total amateurs, no matter the age. I wish we will have even more people this year, so I will be able to have three classes per day.
- GTP: You, an ambassador of the Navarino Challenge, are from Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece. How does Messinia appeal as a destination to Thessaloniki residents? What is that “special something” that you believe will attract Thessaloniki residents to Messinia?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: First of all, Messinia is located at the wonderful and very beautiful Peloponnese, which is great a vacation destination on its own. Well, imagine combining this fact with the amazing Costa Navarino, and you have a combination that no one can even think to resist. The special something is the wonderful hospitality of Messinia, that only someone who has already visited the area can understand. We have families that come every year since 2013 to challenge themselves during the second weekend of September.
- GTP: How do you find Messinia as a host/tourism destination for the Navarino Challenge? Do you believe the event can add to Greece’s appeal as a tourism destination?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: I think that Navarino Challenge is the best example of the very growing Sports tourism, especially Hotel Sports Tourism and is showing to everyone how it’s done correctly. Greece has already some of the best tourism choices for vacation in the whole world, so I cannot imagine why we shouldn’t try and manage to create such events with total success.
Besides, the purpose of the Olympic Movement as well is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating the younger ages – through sport, without any form of discrimination – and within the Olympic spirit. This requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, brotherhood and fair play.
- GTP: Many think that Tae Kwon Do is only a self-defense sport. But it is more than that, correct? How can people benefit from this Korean martial art?
Alexandros Nikolaidis: First of all, Tae Kwon Do is a great all around sport. It is a wonderful sport to begin with in young ages, as the discipline and the physical attributes it generates are necessary for every sport anyone can imagine. In older ages, it is a very different, interesting and challenging sport to start. On the contrary of what many people think, it is a sport that you can practice in every age, given the fact that after a certain age you cannot prepare for competing, but only for training and well-being.
GTP is a Strategic Communication Partner of the “Navarino Challenge” event.