Voula Papachristou, the 23-year-old Greek triple jumper who came to international attention this week through a tasteless tweet, has criticised the decision reached by the Hellenic Olympic Committee to expel her from the Olympic Games.
Instead of coming to world attention through her athletic prowess, Papachristou fell into the spotlight after posting a message on Twitter which read
"With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!!!" After initially extending an apology for her remarks, Papachristou has now spoken out in anger.
reported the athlete said
“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.
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. They went straight to the final stage in excluding me from the team, which was highly excessive.”
According to Yahoo Sports
Greek athletes were not given any guidelines or rules of conduct for Twitter use by Greek authorities. Moreover officials said the decision to ban her was reached as they did not want to "place Greece in a very negative light." Arguably their actions brought far more prominence to Papachristou and attention to Greece than she would have achieved if allowed to compete without international attention placed on her remark.
In reality it is the athlete's open support for the far-right political party Golden Dawn which most likely drew political pressure to influence the decision to ban her. The Greek press reported Papachristou had re-tweeted messages posted by Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris, showing support, although she has since erased all messages connecting her to the party.
Golden Dawn released a statement condemning the athletes expulsion, firmly laying the blame on policital pressure. Ekathimerini
reported the statement said
"The expulsion of an athlete in the wake of backstage political interventions -- simply because of a joke that is going around the Internet -- proves how miserable and anti-Greek our state and the international bodies that use the Olympic ideals as their own are.”
Papachristou has denied any political connections. She said
"I have never got involved with politics. 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 re-tweeting 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 went on to criticise the the unacceptable conditions under which Greek athletes are expected to train in under harsh austerity measures, saying
"We have zero support from the state. 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."
She went on to wish her fellow Greek athletes the best in the London Olympics.