IOC reverses gift ban on Iranian athletes in S. Korea after Tehran’s objection
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has backed down on a decision to deny gift Samsung smartphones to Iranian athletes attending the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea after Tehran strongly objected to the contentious move.
According to Press TV, earlier this week, media report said 4,000 of the latest Samsung smartphones 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 on Thursday to convey Tehran’s strong objection to the decision, which it described as “immoral” and “contrary to the spirit” of the games.
“The issue would seriously affect Samsung’s business ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran if the company fails to apologize for this imprudent measure,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also told Samsung that if the decision was not reversed by Thursday afternoon, he would lead a boycott of the company in Iran and give up his personal Samsung phone.
Hours later, the decision on Samsung phones appeared to have been reversed.
The IOC said Thursday that athletes from both Iran and North Korea would receive the gifts.
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.
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.