The first loser of the London Games did not even occur in competition. Rather, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou used Twitter to unleash racist comments that that had her banished from competition.
Papachristou was scheduled to fly to London next week from her training base in Athens, Greece when the Hellenic Olympic Committee – Greek’s Olympic federation – made the decision to expel her from the team.
Papachristou, 23, made a racist and tasteless comment on her Twitter account, @papaxristoutj, that highlighted the number of African immigrants in Greece.
“With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!,” Papachristou wrote. She also reposted a comment from controversial Greek politician Ilias Kasidiaris, who has strongly criticized his government’s “soft” immigration policy.
The West Nile virus was first discovered in Uganda, but cases have recently been found during the European summer. Papachristou’s tweet was met with a flood of angry responses, but she didn’t respond until Wednesday, when it became clear she might lose her spot in the Olympics.
“I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account,” she said. “I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.”
The triple jumper stood by her comments on Tuesday, tweeting, “That’s how I am. I laugh. I am not a CD to get stuck!!! And if I make mistakes, I don’t press the replay! I press Play and move on!!!”
Papachristou backed away from that stance when her trip to London was cut short before it even started. She apologized on Facebook and Twitter Wednesday morning and called her joke “unfortunate and tasteless.”
“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,” said Papachristou on Twitter and Facebook.
The sudden about face did not sway everyone.
“Let her make any miserable ‘jokes’ on social media while watching the games on TV,” said the Democratic Left, a party in Greece’s coalition government, in a statement. “She definitely cannot represent Greece in London.”