It is with the deepest sorrow that the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) communicates the death of the Greek Polyvios Kossivas last week in Greece at the age of 71.
Polyvios Kossivas was the protagonist of one of the most important chapters in the history of Brazilian Olympic sport. During the Athens 2004 Olympic Games marathon, anonymous in the crowd that followed the race, he saw that the Brazilian Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, then leader of the race, had been knocked down by the former Irish priest Cornelius Horan.
Polyvios invaded the track, pushed the aggressor, and allowed Vanderlei to continue the race to finish in third position and win the bronze medal. Weeks later, the runner would receive the Pierre de Coubertin medal, dedicated by the International Olympic Committee to those who best represent the Olympic values – Vanderlei is, to date, the only Brazilian to have received the commendation.
"At that moment, Polyvios Kossivas became a national Olympic sports hero for an act that is remembered and revered to this day in Brazil and worldwide. The COB mourns the death of Polyvios and would like to convey its deepest sympathies to his family," said chairman Paulo Wanderley.
A few days after the incident, Polyvios Kossivas was found by the Folha de São Paulo newspaper in Athens. At the time, he told the publication that he acted impulsively, without measuring the risks, but was aware that he was helping Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima.
In 2004, months after the Olympic Games, Polyvios Kossivas came to Rio at the invitation of the COB and was honored with the Olympic Brazil Award. During the award ceremony, the Greek took the stage, met Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima for the first time since the episode in Athens, and received the trophy from the hands of the marathoner. An unforgettable moment, receiving a standing ovation from all present.
In a message sent to the COB this week, Smaragda Tsirka, daughter of Polyvios, made many compliments, recalled the trajectory, and paid tribute to her father.
"He was a simple, generous, caring, and selfless man. He loved my mother [Ioulia] and me. He raised me by giving me everything generously. He was a workaholic, tireless, never complaining. He woke up every day at 6 a.m. He was respected by all", Smaragda wrote.
"He loved people, animals, and nature. He had a great sense of humor and was an excellent cook. He was the friend everyone would want to have. The father every child should have. If all people were like him, the world we live in would be wonderful", she completed.
Polyvios Kossivas has always had his life linked to sports. He was a professional basketball player for many years, mainly in the Sporting team in Greece. When he retired, he became a referee, refereeing games in the top national division.
Outside of basketball, Polyvios also served for many years as a salesman and was the manager of an ice cream company.
Polyvios Kossivas leaves a historic mark on Brazilian sport. Vanderlei Cordeiro's "guardian angel" will be remembered, by us, forever as an Olympic hero.