Winter Olympics Organisers Apologise to Iran over Samsung Gift Gaffe

Winter Olympics Say sorry or we won’t accept your smartphones Iran tells Samsung

JUNG YEON-JE AFP

Iran also called for an apology from Samsung, claiming that its trade relations would otherwise be "greatly affected".

Samsung sought to distance itself from the spat, saying in a statement that it was "not responsible for the distribution of the phones" and referring questions to Olympics organisers.

"They are awaiting the official and written response", Hassan Taherian, Iran's ambassador to South Korea, told the official Irna news agency.

News reports said 4,000 of the phones were being given to athletes attending the Pyeongchang Games, but that athletes from Iran and North Korea would be excluded because of worldwide sanctions against the two countries.

The Iranian foreign minister issued an ultimatum on Thursday to Samsung Co. urging it to apologize for excluding the Iranian Olympians from receiving phones as a gift in the South Korea Winter Olympics, a source said.

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.

Games organizers had refused 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 global sanctions.

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On Friday, the Games' organisers acknowledged sending a letter of apology to the Iranians, saying Samsung's action was due to a misunderstanding.

Reza Salehi Amiri, the newly-elected President of the National Olympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the team was sent away without their phones because "United Nations sanctions" prohibited the supply of luxury items to Iran.

"The IOC has confirmed that the Iranian athletes are entitled to receive and keep the phones".

Samsung Electronics has provided some 4,000 units of the Galaxy Note 8 Olympic Edition to all athletes and International Olympic Committee officials visiting PyeongChang. According to the Washington Post's Adam Taylor, Iran's Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs blasted the exclusion as "an insult to our athletes, who are representatives of the great, civilized Iranian people, and our peace messengers".

While local media has reported that the 22 North Korean athletes rejected the offer and decided not to take the phones anyway, the IOC and the organizing committee for the PyeongChang Olympics declined to confirm whether individual North Korean athletes accepted the phones or not.

The cases will feature the logo of the Paralympic Games.

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