Hellenic Olympic Committee officials announced Voula Papachristou wouldn't travel to London after she tweeted a joke about African immigrants.
On Monday, the track athlete posted a tweet reading, "with so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitos will be eating food from their own home." The comments created an uproar on Greek social media. Papachristou didn't address the criticism on Twitter for two days.
Greece later announced it would place Papchristou "outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement."
[ Photos: Voula Papachristou in action ]
Values outside the Olympic movement? So if she had sold her Twitter account to the highest bidder, went on a McDonald's diet or decided to sit out the Games rather than face a member of a different religion, she'd be cool? Ban her if you want, Greece, but don't pin it on the questionable values of the Olympic movement.
Papachristou's tweet was tasteless, inane, tasteless (again) and not at all funny. But does it deserve Olympic banishment? Look, if you have to parse how racist a statement is, then it's already too racist. But there's still a threshold that needs to be crossed to get into the "we're going to ban you from the Olympics" territory and I'm not sure Papachristou's tweet got there. Unless you think she's suggesting that she wants African Greeks to contract West Nile (I don't think you can make that assumption based on this tweet), then this is stupid racial humor rather than racism.
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The nation's Democratic Left disagreed and called for Papachristou's banning. "Watching the Olympics on TV screen," the party wrote, "she could do as many vile 'jokes' she wants through the social media."
So they want her to make racist jokes on Twitter? That's just as offensive!
Papachristou issued a strong apology for her tweet on Wednesday afternoon:
I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.
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. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.
I ask again: Does she deserve to be banned from the Olympics? This is no defense of Papachristou. The tweet was stupid and misguided, at best. But if this is about teaching and tolerance, then doesn't letting her compete make more sense? She's contrite about the incident. In theory, she could do more good by being on the world's biggest stage rather than being left behind in Athens.
Meanwhile, good for Greek politicians for keeping an eye on the important stuff, like the Twitter accounts of triple jumpers. I can think of literally nothing else in the country that deserves attention.
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