Greek Triple Jumper Voula Papachristou Barred from Olympics for ‘Racist’ Tweet
A Greek triple jumper with high Olympic hopes has been banned from competing in the upcoming London Games after she posted a tweet lamenting the influx of African immigrants in Greece and mocking them.
Voula Papachristou, 23, was booted from Greece’s Olympic team on Wednesday. The Hellenic Olympic Committee cited Papachristou’s “statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement” as the reason for her ouster.
“It’s the same as violating fair play,” explained Isidoros Kouvelos, head of Greece’s Olympic mission. “We are not here just to get medals, but to promote the Olympic ideals, to show our character,” he told Skai TV.
Last Sunday, Papachristou tweeted about the current outbreak of West Nile Virus in Greece. At least five people have contracted the mosquito-borne illness around the capital city of Athens this month.
“With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food,” she wrote.
Papachristou also retweeted messages from the far-right, anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party, a neo-Nazi organization that enjoyed alarming success in Greece’s recent elections. Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos has vowed to expel immigrants from Greece or force them into concentration camps.
The blacklisted athlete doubled down on her offensive tweet on Tuesday, proudly declaring, “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!!!”
But once she learned of her Olympic fate, Papachristou backpedalled significantly.
“My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values,” she posted on Facebook and Twitter. “Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races.”
Social media sites were atwitter with words of support for the banned triple jumper. On Facebook, users called her everything from a “hero” to a “Greek goddess.” Others argued that barring Papachristou from the Olympics was an affront to free speech. On Twitter, a black user named Darnell Lowe wrote that he “thought the tweet was funny. People need to stop being so sensitive and learn how to take a joke.”
Still, not everyone was expressing support for Papachristou.
“Let her make any miserable ‘jokes’ on social media while watching the games on TV,” Democratic Left, a progressive party in Greece’s coalition government, said in a statement. “She definitely cannot represent Greece in London.”
The Hellenic Olympic Committee has barred Greek athletes from using social media to discuss any topics not related to the Games.
While Moral Low Ground certainly does not agree in any way with the Golden Dawn Party and finds Papachristou’s political affiliation with it despicable, we believe she has every right to support any group she wants. And while her tweet was highly insensitive, especially considering her support for Golden Dawn, we do not believe it rises quite to the level of racism. Banning Papachristou from competing in London is too harsh a penalty. Olympic athletes have a very limited window in which to perform at their best. Does one off-color ‘joke’ really warrant the crushing of her life’s dream?
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