Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Voula Papachristou banned

The Greek triple jumper expelled from London 2012 after she made a racist remark on Twitter says she has been left "very bitter and upset", admitting: "I am trying to stay calm otherwise I would lose control."

Voula Papachristou, 23, was removed from the Greek Olympic team on Wednesday after causing uproar with the tweet about the widely reported appearance of Nile-virus-carrying mosquitoes in Athens. She wrote: "With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food." She subsequently deleted the message.

The Greek Olympic Committee condemned the comment as "contrary to the values and ideals of the Olympic movement", though Papachristou's coach and the far-right Greek Golden Dawn party were among those to attack the punishment as excessive.Speaking for the first time since her exclusion,  Voula Papachristou  said she was devastated by the decision.

"I have not slept at all and to be honest I am still trying to come to terms with what has 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."The athlete, a popular figure in Greece, was a long shot for a medal at the Games with a season's best of 14.58m, almost half a metre behind the world leaders.

"I don't know if they want to make an example out of me because of my profile, this is for others to judge, but what I believe is that they used their maximum disciplinary power on me for this," Papachristou said. "They went straight to the final stage in excluding me from the team, which was highly excessive."

Critics also pointed out she had previously reposted a tweet by Ilias Kasidiaris, a politician with the Golden Dawn party, criticising the stance on immigration of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras.She also tweeted Kasidiaris, who shocked the country when he slapped a female politician on live television, to wish him well on his patron saint day, in a message she later deleted.

Papachristou, though, denied any political connections and said the offending tweet was a joke in bad taste.
"I have never got involved with politics," she said. "As I stated in my apologies, it was a joke in bad taste which was being shared around by everyone and I didn't expect my retweeting it to cause problems. I never wanted to create an issue or offend anyone as I don't have that way of thinking or acting."

She also attacked the Greek authorities, claiming they offer athletes no support, forcing them to train in harsh conditions."We have zero support from the state," she said. "There are a lot of things that people do not know about, such as the unacceptable conditions in which we have to train.

"For example, there is no heating and no hot water even to take a shower in winter, no air conditioning in the summer and squalid training facilities and equipment in a state of disrepair."These are just the tip of the iceberg without mentioning the financial side and how we have been affected by massive cuts in state-funding for sport."

Despite her bitterness, Voula Papachristou said she intended to respect the decision to exclude her. "The only thing I know is to compete in athletics to the best of my ability and that has been shown in my performances so far in my career. I believe I am a good, kind and also strong character. I will get over this and give my answers in my future performances. That is all I want to say on that.

"I wish the very best to all my fellow athletes in the Greek team, I hope each and every one can give their best and show that the Greek spirit has no limits."

Team GB athletes have now been reminded to keep their tweets “in a tasteful manner” or risk breaching their athlete team agreements, which allow for expulsion from the Games.
Voula Papachristou a supporter of the far-right political party Golden Dawn, posted the offensive tweet two days ago, which she now claims was a joke.
The tweet said: “With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!”

But the Hellenic Olympic Committee came under pressure from within Greece to take action against 23-year-old Papachristou, who had also publicly supported the Golden Dawn politician Ilias Kasidiaris, when he criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s immigration position.
She had previously retweeted promotional videos from the political party, which gained seven per cent of the vote in the recent Greek elections.