Athlete disqualified from Olympics over tweet PDF Print E-mail

A Greek athlete has become the first to be disqualified from competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London due to a tweet she posted. 

A firestorm erupted around 23-year old Voula Papachristou, Greece’s top female triple-jumper, after she took to micro-blogging site Twitter earlier this week and wrote what has been described as a “tasteless” and “racist” tweet.

In the tweet, which was posted on Monday, July 23, Papachristou took an apparent jibe at the amount of African migrants in Greece by posting: “With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!!!” The tweet, which was written in Greek, caused an almost immediate flurry of angry reactions in Greece’s social media. Many Internet users called her a “Nazi” and demanded her expulsion from Greece’s Olympics team.

On Wednesday, Papachristou tweeted an apology: “I apologise if I insulted people! I have no mingling with politics!!! I am only [an] athlete!!”

Apparently it was too little too late for forgiveness. Even Greece’s coalition governing party, the Democratic Left, issued a statement, also calling for Papachristou’s expulsion from the team: “Racist humour and “jokes” concerning human lives are not tolerated by the Greek society, cannot thrive in Greek athletics. The least the Greek Olympic Committee can do now is to revoke Ms Voula Papachristou from the Olympic Games. Watching the Olympics on TV screen, she could make as many vile “jokes” [as] she wants through the social media. But for sure, she cannot represent Greece in London.”

On Thursday, Papachristou described her bitterness at the ruling to Reuters: “I have not slept at all and to be honest, I am still trying to come to terms with what happened. I am trying to stay calm, otherwise I would lose control.

“I am thankful to my coach and family and so many other people who have stuck by me… After so many years of hurt and sacrifices to try and get to my first Olympics, I am very bitter and upset. But what has upset me the most is the excessive reaction and speed of the disciplinary decision,” Papachristou said, adding that she didn’t know whether they wanted to make “an example out” of her.

The official Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games takes place in London tonight.

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