LONDON – Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banished from the Olympic Games on Wednesday after making racist comments and expressing right-wing sentiments on Twitter.
Papachristou was scheduled to fly to London next week from her training base in Athens 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.
By then, it was too late. Greek Olympic chiefs consulted with senior members of the Greek parliament, including aides to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, before making their decision. Part of the reason for the expulsion was to punish Papachristou for her actions, but the decision was also made in hopes of avoiding a backlash from anti-racism protestors at the Games.
The financial crisis gripping Greece – where strict austerity measures have affected the lives of millions – has forced the country to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship to fund its Olympic program. Officials feared that contributors may rethink their commitment if Papachristou remained on the team.