Winter Olympics Organisers Apologise to Iran over Samsung Gift Gaffe

Josh Miller  CNET

Josh Miller CNET

Iran's Foreign Ministry has summoned South Korean's ambassador to protest the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizers' move to exclude Iranian athletes from the list of competitors receiving smartphones because of what they have cited United Nations sanctions.

Organisers of South Korea's Winter Olympics apologised to the Iranian team before Friday's opening ceremony for a misunderstanding over gifts of Samsung mobile phones.

Iranian sports commentator Mostafa Shoughi said that Samsung's reluctance to issue Iranian athletes its new smartphones is "not just a stupid move, but also a gross violation of the National Olympic Committee Charter".

The envoy has assured Iran of frequent contacts with South Korea's foreign ministry and government to pursue the case, Qassemi added, quoting the ambassador as saying that South Korean government authorities and Samsung officials have denied any involvement in handing out the smartphones.

The decision apparently came amid looming anti-Samsung sentiment in Iran after reports that their athletes will not be getting the smartphones reached the Middle East country.

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.


Although they backtracked the following day, the incident caused a storm in Iran where Samsung had a major presence.

Yonhap news agency said the North Koreans at the Games had refused the phones.

"Regarding Iran, we can confirm that all participants will be able to keep the phones".

But there was concern the phones provided certain countries, namely North Korea and Iran, could violate global sanctions.

"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.

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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