Voula Papachristou (Photo : Facebook)
Yesterday, it was announced that Paraskevi "Voula" Papachristou, 23, would not be competing on Greece's Olympic team following a tweet that has been decried worldwide as racist.
Papachristou, who apologized for the tweets before the Hellenic Olympic Committee made the decision to bar her, has since let it be known that she is "upset and bitter" about her expulsion. And others have let it be known that they share her feelings.
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On July 22nd, the triple jumper and Athens resident tweeted: "So many Africans in Greece at least West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food."
The tweet was apparently a partial reference to a recent West Nile outbreak in Athens, and also to Greece's growing population of immigrants from other continents, a polarizing issue in Greek politics.
It didn't help that Papachristou already had a history of tweeting her support for a far-right party whose bellicose anti-immigration stances have routinely had it dodging accusations of racism and neo-Nazism.
As reported by the Huffington Post, Papachristou had re-tweeted posts by the Golden Dawn party, including posts by Ilias Kasidiaris, the member of parliament who made global headlines in June when he slapped a female member of a leftist party. Papachristou had even directly offered Kasidiaris her good wishes last week, via Twitter.
Golden Dawn, formerly on the extreme fringe of Greek politics, gained 7 percent of parliamentary seats in the spring elections.
Now, Golden Dawn officials have weighed in, calling Papachristou's expulsion "hypocritical" and saying it was driven by the mainstream media and leftwing political parties. "Which individuals and which body decided to exclude the champion, depriving our country from a possible medal?" a statement from Elias Kasidiaris asked.
The Guardian quoted the party as saying, "The only racism in Greece is the racism against the Greeks. Anybody who says even a word against illegal immigrants is held up to public ridicule."
In her comments to Reuters after her expulsion, Papachristou hinted that she too believed the verdict was politically motivated. "I don't know if they want to make an example out of me because of my profile, this is for others to judge, but what I believe is that they used their maximum disciplinary power on me for this," she said.
A Facebook page titled "Support freedom of speech Support Voula Papachristou" went up yesterday and at this time has nearly 700 likes. Another, titled "Please Let Voula Papachristou Take Part in The Olympics", has 374 (another page, titled "Voula Papachristou should be made to do charity work in West Africa", has 22).
On the second-named page, Poster Maria Bays Sarantopoulos wrote, "You guys are missing the point. This ban on Voula is 100% political [sic] and has nothing at ALL to do with any so-called "racist joke". The same people who are banning her from the Olympics are part of the same group of people who are responsible for Greece's downfall!!
Poster Aurelia Anderson, on the other hand, wrote "She's a professional athlete. Nothing about her comment or way she expresses them was professional. Go home and watch the Olympics."