Olympic body apologizes to Iran over Samsung gift snub

Press TV – Organizers of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea say they have formally apologized to Iran over an earlier decision to deny its athletes gift Samsung smartphones, which sparked diplomatic furor in Tehran.

The head of the Pyeongchang organizing committee, Lee Hee-beom, confirmed he had written to the Iranian sports delegation “to apologize for the misunderstanding.”

Earlier this week, media report said 4,000 of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 were being given to athletes taking part in the Winter Games starting Friday in South Korea, but the athletes from Iran and North Korea would not get the gifts due to sanctions.

The news reports sparked outrage in Iran, prompting the Foreign Ministry to summon the South Korean ambassador and demand an apology.

Shortly afterwards, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) backed down on a decision to deny gift Samsung smartphones to both Iranian and North Korean athletes.

Samsung also said the IOC was responsible for distributing gifts at the Olympics and it had no further comment.

“The IOC will provide mobile phones to all athletes of all countries participating at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018. These phones contain essential logistical and competition information for the athletes,” an IOC spokesperson said.

“Regarding Iran, we can confirm that all participants will be able to keep the phones,” the spokesperson said, adding, however, that the North Koreans would be requested not to take the devices home. AFP said North Korean athletes had refused to accept the smartphones on that condition.

Earlier on Friday, Iranian ambassador to Seoul says the country’s athletes at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games have refused to accept gift Samsung smartphones pending an apology for the initial decision.

“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 told the official IRNA news agency.

Iran is a key market for Samsung products in the Middle East, including smartphones and home appliances such as washing machines, televisions, air conditioners and telecommunications equipment.

Samsung is officially represented in Iran and runs after-sales service centers in major cities. The South Korean giant has invested in Iran’s consumer market which offers huge potential for business.