The time was 2 pm when the plane carrying the famous couple landed at Paros airport. The local employees who witnessed the arrival of the high-profile guests of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson couldn’t believe their eyes.
Were their eyes deceiving them? No, they were not mistaken: former US President Barack Obama was stepping on Greek soil for the second time (in his capacity as president, he chose Athens as his final overseas destination in 2016), accompanied by his wife Michelle, and members of his personal security team.
Their final destination is the nearby island of Antiparos, a favorite destination for thousands of Greek and foreign visitors every summer, where the country house of the Hollywood star and his wife of Greek origin is located. The island has attracted a large number of celebrities in recent years.
Obama and Tom Hanks have shared a close friendship for many years, so the invitation was not surprising.
The Civil Aviation Authority, the Police and the Coast Guard have been busy in recent days in Athens and Paros, preparing for the high profile arrival in the utmost secrecy.
Hanks and Wilson arrived on Antiparos last Thursday; they were soon joined by at least 35 security personnel, tasked with checking the island, which is mercifully quiet.
“Even on weekends we are still relatively calm,” an Antiparos businessman tells Kathimerini. “Usually there is a wedding or christening that brings people to the island, but nothing more.” This is precisely why most VIPs prefer to visit Antiparos in June, when there are fewer people, and security and privacy issues are easier to manage.
Apart from being relatively quiet, the former presidential couple have found almost ideal summer weather: not too hot, with moderate southerly winds, and the Meteorological Service forecasting fine conditions for the Cyclades.
As for the program for the next few days, nothing has been leaked. Until yesterday afternoon, no visit has been scheduled to nearby Despotiko, the uninhabited islet west of Antiparos, home to the largest island sanctuary after Delos.
The Obamas’ first Greek vacation is linked to the former president’s participation on Thursday, June 22, at the SNF Nostos Conference 2023, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, where he will discuss ways to strengthen democracy and the importance of supporting the next generation of leaders along with Stavros Niarchos Foundation Co-President, Andreas Dracopoulos.
This article was previously published in Greek at kathimerini.gr.