A Greek triple jumper was today kicked off her Olympic team over comments on Twitter mocking African immigrants and expressing support for a far-right party.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee said Voula Papachristou was dropped from the team ‘for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.’
Papachristou, who is currently in Athens, was due to travel to London shortly before the start of the athletics events but has now been excluded.
On Monday, she tweeted: ‘With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!’
This is a reference to an outbreak of the West Nile virus, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes of African origin, in Athens this summer.
One man died and another 180 have been infected since the outbreak began.
She also re-tweeted a comment from Ilias Kasidiaris, a politician with Golden Dawn, criticising Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s stance on immigration.
It created a storm on the social network, with other users accusing her of being a ‘Nazi’ and a supporter of the extremist right-wing political party.
Papachristou later took to Twitter to try and defuse the row, saying: ‘I apologize if I insulted people! I have no mingling with politics!!! I am only athlete!!’
But her comments were to no avail as pressure mounted on her to be thrown out of the Greek Olympic squad.
The left-wing party Democratic Left led calls for her to step down, saying ‘racist humour and jokes’ had no place in Greek society.
This afternoon, Isidoros Kouvelos, President of the Greek Olympics Committee, confirmed her expulsion.
Papachristou has since apologised again for her comments on her Facebook page. She wrote: 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 apologise to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted and shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologise to my coach and my family.’
The 23-year-old was not among the favourites for gold in London. She finished 11th in the European Championships in Helsinki earlier this year and was 8th at last August’s World Championships in Daegu.
Her personal best in the triple jump is 14.72m and her season’s best was just 14.58m, half a metre behind the favourites.
Her Twitter account has been taken down.