Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Drugs, racism, foul-ups... and London 2012 Olympics haven’t even started

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics hasn’t even taken place, but already nine athletes have been suspended for doping offences, another has been expelled for racist comments and a female football team has walked off the pitch.

The scoreboard displayed the South Korean flag, rather than the North Korean one, before the latter's opening match in the women's football tournament.

The scoreboard at Glasgow's Hampden Park began running through the names and numbers of the North Korean women's football team, but it hadn't got as far as the left back before the team was off the pitch, and refusing to play.

It took more than an hour of negotiation and a hasty apology for them to consent to return, once the flag was corrected. Officially, the two Koreas have been at war since the 1950s.

The Games were also hit by their first major drugs scandal as Morocco's Mariem Alaoui Selsouli, the favourite for the women's 1500m gold medal, was suspended from all competitions after a positive drugs test.

In total, nine athletes were suspended yesterday for doping offences. The nine track-and-field athletes included three Russians, two Ukrainians, one Bulgarian, a Greek and a Turk.

In a separate, unprecedented development, the Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from the Games for posting Twitter remarks deemed racist. Papachristou (23) commented: “With so many Africans in Greece... at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!”

This was a reference to an outbreak of the West Nile virus, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes of African origin, in Athens this summer.

She later apologised.

Olympics supremo Lord Coe arrived in Cardiff ahead of Team GB's clash against New Zealand in the women's football.

The first heats ended Britain's 58-year wait to see Olympic sporting action on British soil. Team GB won 1-0 in a hard-fought match.

Meanwhile, Sir Steve Redgrave (below) remains the choice of the bookies to have the honour of lighting the cauldron to start the Olympics. Five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve is 1-2 favourite with Corals, with runner Dame Kelly Holmes at 5-2 and decathlete Daley Thompson 4-1.

Sir Steve told the BBC: “I would love to do it, there's no question about that. I would love to be playing a part in the opening ceremony. But I would be very surprised if I was given that honour. I haven't had any phone calls yet.”

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