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Tributes paid to Greek man who famously intervened when ‘Dancing Irish priest’ disrupted Olympics

Polyvios Kossivas, who was one of the spectators at the event, jumped in when the defrocked Irish priest disrupted the race in a bizarre protest

Horan and de Lima at the Olympics© AFP via Getty Images

The Brazilian, who was expected to win the gold, finished in third place winning the bronze© AFP via Getty Images

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

The Greek man who famously intervened when “Dancing priest” Neil Horan pounced on Brazilian athlete Vanderlei de Lima at the Athens Olympics in 2004 has died aged 71.

Polyvios Kossivas, who was one of the spectators at the event, jumped in when the defrocked Irish priest disrupted the race in a bizarre protest that almost certainly cost the talented athlete victory.

The Brazilian, who was leading the race, lost out on the gold medal after Horan invaded the track and threw him into the crowd.

Although a shaken de Lima rejoined the race and finished with a bronze medal, he had never forgiven the former Co Kerry cleric for his shameful stunt which made worldwide headlines.

Kossivas was praised for his actions by the Olympic Committee of Brazil (COB) following his death this week.

"It is with the deepest regret that the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) announces the death of the Greek Polyvios Kossivas, aged 71, last week in Greece,” the committee said.

“Kossivas was the protagonist of one of the most important chapters in the history of Brazilian Olympic sport.

"During the marathon at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, he saw that the Brazilian Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, then leader of the race, had been knocked down by the Irish ex-priest Cornelius Horan.

"(He) allowed Vanderlei to continue in the race to finish in third place and win the bronze medal.”

Shortly afterwards, Vanderlei received the Pierre de Coubertin medal, which is awarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to the person who best represents the Olympic values , becoming the only Brazilian to have received the commendation.

The Brazilian, who was expected to win the gold, finished in third place winning the bronze© AFP via Getty Images

"Polyvios Kossivas became a hero of the national Olympic sport, for an attitude that is remembered and revered until today in Brazil and in the world,” Paulo Wanderley, president of COB, added. (We) regret the death of Polyvios and would like to convey its deepest feelings to his family.”

Kossivas was invited to Rio by the COB after the Olympics and was honoured at the Brazil Olympic Award, where he received a trophy from Vanderlei Cordeiro and was given a standing ovation.

His daughter Smaragda Tsirka, described her father a “simple, generous, caring and selfless man”.

He adored my mother (Loulia) and me. He raised me by giving me everything. He was a workaholic, tireless, never complaining. He woke up every day at 6am. He was respected by all.

"He loved people, animals and nature. He had a great sense of humor and was an excellent cook. He was the friend everyone wanted to have. The father every child should have. If all people were like him, the world we live in would be wonderful."

Horan, who was defrocked by the Catholic Church in 2005 because of his disruptive antics, first grabbed national attention when he scampered onto the track at the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, in 2003.

Several drivers swerved to avoid the orange skirt-wearing fanatic, who waved a banner saying ‘Read the Bible. The Bible is always right’.

Horan said afterwards that he was plagued by guilt over his actions at the Olympics, and had attempted to make amends by writing to de Lima numerous times and issued several apologies during interviews on Brazilian national TV.

In 2015, the London-based former churchman, who has a history of disrupting major sporting events, told how he was likely to encounter a "hostile reception" when he touched down in de Lima's home country for the first time in a bid to track the retired athlete down.

Horan planned to make a 600 km trek to Maringa, the city where de Lima lives and runs a sports shop.

"I've always wanted to apologise to Vanderlei and I've tried to contact him lots of times, but haven't heard back. What I did was very wrong and it's played on my mind ever since,” Horan said at the time.

"I've suffered a tremendous number of insults over the last 10 years or so over what I did. Unfortunately I can't turn back the clock. All I can do at this stage is try to apologise.

"Over the years hundreds of Brazilian nationals have approached me in London and said the only way to apologize in their country is to do it face-to-face, that that would be an acceptable act of redemption. I've even been learning some Portuguese phrases so I can communicate with him when I meet him."

Horan, a previous surprise contestant on Britain's Got Talent, had previously attempted to atone for pouncing on de Lima by entering the London Marathon. However, he was barred from taking part.

He was back in the news last year when he turned up at 10 Downing Street with a placard saying, ‘Britain should have a Christian Prime Minister’.

Horan was reportedly removed by police shortly before incoming Hindu PM Rishi Sunak addressed the nation, on Tuesday, October 25.

According to witnesses, the gathered crowd “waved their fists” and shouted “f*ck off’ at the 75-year-old Irish devotee.

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