ATHENS – Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was withdrawn from the London Olympics today after causing an uproar at home for tweeting what was seen as a racist slur, the head of the Greek Olympics team said.
“With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!” she had posted on her Twitter account.The head of the Greek Olympic mission said she could no longer be on the team.
“She showed no respect for a basic Olympic value and unfortunately she is out,” Isidoros Kouvelos told Greek SKAI TV. “She made a mistake and in life we pay for our mistakes.”
The 23-year-old athlete said in a lengthy apology that the comment was “an unfortunate and tasteless joke”.
“I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights,” Papachristou wrote in a note posted on her Facebook page in Greek and English.
“My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values.”
Her apology did not sway the co-ruling Democratic Left party, which had demanded her expulsion.
“She can make as many vile ‘jokes’ as she likes on social networking sites when she watches the Olympic Games on TV,” it said in a statement. “But she certainly cannot represent Greece in London.”
One man has died in a small outbreak of the West Nile virus in Athens this month and at least five other cases have been reported, according to the country’s disease control and prevention body.
Greece is sending 105 competitors in 16 sports to the London Olympics beginning on Friday.
Papachristou was a long shot for a medal with a season’s best of 14.58 metres, almost half a metre behind the world leaders.
She finished 11th in last month’s European championships in Helsinki with a jump of 13.89 and failed to make the final in the 2011 world championships.
In 2009 she qualified for the final of the European indoor championships with the second-longest jump but then failed to register a jump in the final.