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Pyeongchang organizing committee apologizes to Iran over gift ban

11 February 2018

Also in a letter signed by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) Deputy Director General Pero Miro, the IOC expressed its "deepest regret for the unfortunate incident concerning the distribution of the phone to the Iranian athletes".

"If Samsung does not apologise 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.

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

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

"The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose to allow the provision of the Galaxy Note 8 smartphones to four Iranian athletes without the condition of handing them back", an official from the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Games said.

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 worldwide sanctions. The phablet, which normally has a almost $1,000 price tag, could be considered a dual use luxury item.

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The source of the misunderstanding was not explained.The committee had initially claimed the phones were denied "because of existing United Nations sanctions", even though all United Nations sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2015 apart from those linked to arms and nuclear technology. Uncertainty over the restrictions left the Olympic organizers wary of giving the Iranian athletes the free phablets.

Teheran's foreign ministry on Thursday summoned South Korea's ambassador to Iran, demanding Seoul and Samsung deliver an apology. Iran had lodged "a strong protest" over Samsung's "dishonest conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Games".

Although the organisers later backtracked, it sparked anger in Iran, where Samsung has a major commercial presence, and its athletes refused to accept the phones until there was a full apology.

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While local media has reported that the 22 North Korean athletes rejected the offer and decided not to take the phones anyway, the IOC and the organizing committee for the PyeongChang Olympics declined to confirm whether individual North Korean athletes accepted the phones or not. 12 participating North Korean athletes have faced the same exclusive policy.

Pyeongchang organizing committee apologizes to Iran over gift ban