Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Hold the phone? Games organisers apologise to Iran for apparent gift gaffe

Pyeongchang organizing committee apologizes to Iran over gift ban Iranian officials react firmly to Samsung move
Ellis Copeland | 12 February, 2018, 06:01

Athletes from Iran arrive during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

Then the International Olympic Committee said they would be provided for the Games, but the two countries' representatives would be asked to return them afterwards rather than keep them. The athletes have instead sent a letter of protest to the organizing committee asking for an apology.

It is not clear whether the Iranian authorities were aware of the apology when they rejected the IOC's offer.

Iran had summoned South Korea's ambassador to Tehran to explain the apparent snub.

The games' sponsor Samsung Electronics had donated some 4,000 "Olympic edition" Galaxy Note 8 smartphones as a gift to all the athletes and officials visiting PyeongChang for the worldwide tournament, but Iranian and North Korean athletes were initially denied the gifts.

"If Samsung does not apologize for its unwise action, this will greatly affect Samsung's trade relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran", the state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Also, an informed source told the IRIB that ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi had also demanded the South Korean company to apologize, saying the minister was considering revocation of registration service for Samsung devices on the Iranian network.

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However, the International Olympic Committee decided that the phones could not be given to Iranian and North Korean athletes due to United Nations sanctions imposed on the two countries.

The IOC has made a decision to give the North Korean athletes the phones, but only for the duration of the Games.

"There was a confusion as the IOC and organizers had to review legal issues on giving the Galaxy Note 8 smartphone to athletes from countries under global sanction", an official from the organizing committee said, apologizing to Samsung for being accused despite its good intentions.

According to the Yonhap News Agency's Kang Yoon-seung, the 22 North Korean athletes in PyeongChang pre-empted the gifts by declining to accept the Samsung smart phones in the first place.

Under United Nations Security Council sanctions, the sale of luxury items and electronics with a potential dual use - commercial and military - to North Korea is banned.

Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone and memory chip manufacturer, is a crucial part of South Korea's economy, with the group's turnover equivalent to a fifth of the national GDP.

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