Officials Apologize, Backtrack After Sanctions Keep Iranian Athletes from Olympics Swag

N. Korean Olympics
Getty Images/Univision

Olympic officials apologized to Iranian athletes and eventually gave them and the athletes from North Korea the Samsung cell phones it distributed as gifts to thousands of athletes at the 2018 winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea that opened this week.

Reuters reported:

The apology appeared to have helped defuse a spat in which Iran on Thursday summoned South Korea’s ambassador over reports that its athletes would not receive a $1,100 smartphone each.

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 international sanctions against the two countries.

The IOC stepped in late on Thursday to say athletes from both countries would receive the phones, but that the North Koreans would be asked not to take the devices home.

Reuters noted that Samsung was a “big player” in Iran’s electronics market. Samsung did not provide a comment on the incident.

Hindustan Times reported that Iranian athletes at first refused to accept the cell phones without an apology:

Iran said its athletes had refused to accept special Samsung mobile telephones issued for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea until they received an apology for initially being refused them.

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 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, according to the Times.

Breitbart News reported in December:

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement … declaring the latest round of U.N. sanctions an “act of war” equivalent to a “complete economic blockade,” and threatening the safety of the United States unless it accepts North Korea as a nuclear nation.

“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ’resolution,’” said the Foreign Ministry statement.

In January, Breitbart News reported that the U.S. president extended waivers for Iran sanctions:

US officials said President Donald Trump will extend waivers on Iran sanctions, keeping the landmark 2015 nuclear deal alive for at least another several months despite his past vows to scuttle the deal.

Three officials said the waivers will be accompanied by other, targeted sanctions on Iran and a stern warning that Trump will pull out of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration if fixes aren’t made by spring.

That’s when the next deadline comes for extending sanctions relief for Iran.

Iran has four competitors at the Olympics, while North Korea has 22 at the games, which run through Feb.25.