A woman walks past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at the company's showroom in Seoul
Tehran (AFP) - Pyeongchang Olympic organisers said they had apologised to Iran on Friday after a diplomatic furore over its athletes being denied special Samsung phones issued for the Games.
The head of the Pyeongchang organising committee, Lee Hee-beom, confirmed he had written to the Iranian team “to apologise for the misunderstanding”.
The problem started on Wednesday, when Games organisers said Iranian and North Korean athletes would be refused the Galaxy Note 8 devices from sponsor Samsung, loaded with essential logistical and competition information.
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.
The source of the misunderstanding was not explained.
The committee had initially claimed the phones were denied “because of existing UN sanctions”, even though all UN sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2015 apart from those linked to arms and nuclear technology.
Samsung billboards and flagship stores are seen all over Iran, and the South Korean company has sponsored many large-scale cultural events, including the current exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.
Samsung sought to distance itself from the spat, saying in a statement that it was “not responsible for the distribution of the phones” and referring questions to Olympics organisers.
Prior to the apology, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that Telecoms Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi was looking into the issue, and was considering whether to block imports of Samsung phones.
IRNA reported Thursday that “an informed source” had said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would stop using his Samsung mobile if there was no apology.
Although this was not confirmed, the report appeared to trigger a series of “No to Samsung” protests on Twitter.
“If I were a famous person, in response to Samsung’s big insult, I would have thrown my Samsung mobile away on camera, and would have asked other famous people to join me,” wrote one Twitter user.
Others had a more light-hearted response, with one saying he had slammed the door of his Samsung fridge particularly hard after hearing the news.
“The fact that our revolutionary friends haven’t climbed the walls of the South Korean embassy is a big improvement in itself,” joked another Twitter user.