Greek athlete expelled from London 2012 after racist tweet
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
July 25 - In what is a first in the history of the Olympic Games, Greece has expelled triple jumper Voula Papachristou from its team for London 2012 after she posted a comment on Twitter appearing to mock African immigrants.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) said that the 23-year-old Papachristou is "placed outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic Movement."
Papachristou's comment on her Twitter feed said: "With so many Africans in Greece... At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!"
The comment had been posted to her 45 followers on Sunday (July 22) but the HOC only acted after it went viral around the world.
Many internet users called her a "Nazi" and demanded that the HOC expel her.
Among those who insisted she be dropped from the team for London 2012 was coalition Government partner Democratic Left.
"Racist humor and 'jokes' concerning human lives are not tolerated by the Greek society, can not thrive in Greek athletics," they said in a statement.
"The least the Greek Olympic Committee [sic] can do now is to revoke Ms Voula Papachristou from the Olympic Games.
"Watching the Olympics on TV screen, she could do as many vile 'jokes' she wants through the social media.
"But for sure, she can not represent Greece in London."
After the storm broke, Papachristou posted another tweet, which said: "I apologise if I insulted people! I have no mingling with politics!!! I am only Athlete!!"
She then posted a series of other apologies, including some in English.
She posted a longer apology on her Facebook page, which also contained messages to her criticising her tweet.
"I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights," she said.
"My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values.
"Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races."
Papachristou had not let left Athens for London.
She was not considered a contender for a medal having finished 11th at the European Championships in Helsinki last month and having failed to reach the final at the World Championships in Daegu last year.
But Papachristou was considered to be one of Greece's most marketable atheles and in the run-up to London had appeared in photo-shoots for a number of Olympic sponsors, including Adidas and Samsung.
The West Nile virus is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes of African origin and in rare cases can be fatal.
This summer one man died and more than 180 were infected in Athens by the disease.
Papachristou's Twitter account also contains several retweets and postings of YouTube videos promoting the views of Golden Dawn, a formerly marginal extreme right party that entered the Greek Parliament in the recent two national elections by polling almost seven per cent of the vote.
Several had been originally posted by lias Kasidiaris, the Golden Dawn spokesman and one of the party's 18 Parliament members, who became notorious a few weeks ago for striking a woman Communist MP in the face and throwing water at another female MP during a TV talk show.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said here the final decision rested with the National Olympic Committee.
"The rules have not changed," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
"The only difference is the comments were made on social media.
"They clearly contravened the Olympic Charter."