The 2012 London Olympics kicks off this Friday, July 27 and it’s no surprise that many have taken to Twitter to express their excitement for the upcoming ceremonies. Unfortunately, a racially offensive tweet from Greek athlete Voula Papachristou landed her in hot waters and she was ultimately suspended from competing.
On July 23, 23-year-old Papachristou tweeted in Greek a comment about African immigrants. The website Keep Talking Greece was able to screencap the offending message and translated it as follows:
“With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!”
Naturally, a slew of followers found the tweet extremely insensitive, and Papachristou promptly deleted the message followed by an apology. She later posted an official comment on her Facebook page, stating in English that she is ashamed for making such an “unfortunate and tasteless joke.”
“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 writes. “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. I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career.”
Papachristou, a triple jumper set to represent the Greek track and field team, is confirmed to be staying in Athens, Greece instead of her scheduled travel to London before the trials. The Hellenic Olympic Committee cited that her remarks were unsportsmanlike and “showed no respect for the basic Olympian value,” reports BBC.
George Pomaski, Papachristou’s coach, claim the expulsion was a harsh punishment for the young athlete. “It’s too much, the penalty should not have been so strict. She has already apologised for her remarks,” he told The Guardian. “This is a big disappointment not only for her but for her family and for myself, and anyone involved in the Greek team.”