Iran's Winter Olympians demand apology after mobile phone controversy

Games organisers had refused to give certain athletes the Galaxy Note 8 devices from sponsor Samsung.

An employee walks past a logo of the Samsung Electronics Co. at its office in Seoul, South Korea.
An employee walks past a logo of the Samsung Electronics Co. at its office in Seoul, South Korea.
Image: Ahn Young-joon

IRAN SAID ON Friday that its athletes had refused to accept special Samsung mobile telephones issued for the Winter Olympics in South Korea until they received an apology for initially being refused them.

Games organisers had refused on Wednesday to give athletes from Iran and North Korea the Galaxy Note 8 devices from sponsor Samsung, loaded with essential logistical and competition information, due to international sanctions.

Although they backtracked the following day, the incident caused a storm in Iran where Samsung has a major presence.

“Our athletes refused to accept the mobiles and handed in a letter of protest to the Olympic Committee and are awaiting the official and written response,” Hassan Taherian, Iran’s ambassador to South Korea, told the official IRNA news agency.

Samsung billboards and flagship stores are seen all over Iran, and the South Korean company has sponsored many large-scale cultural events, including the current exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

IRNA reported that Telecoms Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi was looking into the issue, and was considering whether to block imports of Samsung phones.

Shahrokh Shahnazi, secretary general of Iran’s National Olympic Committee, told the agency: “The Samsung company and anyone involved in disrespecting Iranian athletes participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics must apologise to Iran’s team, and the Islamic republic of Iran will not compromise on this issue.”

IRNA reported on Thursday that “an informed source” had said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would stop using his Samsung mobile if there was no apology.

Although this was not confirmed, the report appeared to trigger a series of “No to Samsung” protests on Twitter.

“If I were a famous person, in response to Samsung’s big insult, I would have thrown my Samsung mobile away on camera, and would have asked other famous people to join me,” wrote one Twitter user.

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Others had a more light-hearted response, with one saying he had slammed the door of his Samsung fridge particularly hard after hearing the news.

“The fact that our revolutionary friends haven’t climbed the walls of the South Korean embassy is a big improvement in itself,” joked another Twitter user.

- (C) AFP 2018

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