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Monday, February 12, 2018

Samsung giveaway phones spark controversy at Pyeongchang Olympics 2018

Snowboarder Redmond Gerard — more commonly known as simply "Red" —  won the first U.S. medal in Pyeongchang, taking a gold medal at the Winter Olympics with a stunning comeback win in the men's slopestyle final.  Gerard, who at 17 was the youngest competitor in the field, had been sitting in last place after his first two runs. He needed a phenomenal final run to reach the podium — and the Colorado native delivered, posting a best score of 87.16 to rewrite the leader board and vault past Canadians Max Parrot (86.00) and Mark McMorris (85.20), who won silver and bronze.   Gerard is the youngest American male athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics since 1928.

Winter Olympics is on at Pyeongchang ~  nearly 3,000 of the world’s best athletes took to the slopes, rinks, and half pipes in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the Winter Olympics. The images beamed to televisions in the 92 countries with athletes competing and beyond will create new sporting heroes for hundreds of millions of children of the World.  The Olympic stories written over the next weeks will inspire many of those kids to put on their first pair of skates or skis.

Whatever you see these days on Television are always interrupted every other minute by advertisements from official sponsors like Coca-Cola and partners like McDonalds, the very companies that provide the food products that could be the biggest obstacle not only to becoming an Olympic athlete, but also to living a healthy and happy life. According to a 2014 McKinsey study, the cost of obesity on GDP was a whopping $2tn and at the heart of the problem are Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Only smoking and war negatively impacted the world’s finances more.  There were times when Cigarette and tobacco advertisements ruled the roost, now they are banned in most events; yet many other Companies including Food companies that can alarm a   major risk factor are the sponsors and hog the limelight. 

A very popular and most unlikely one in the list of harming (though millions get addicted) is phone !!  ~ the  company’s association with the Olympics started as a local sponsor of the Games in Seoul back in 1988. It extended its commitment as the Worldwide Olympic Partner in the Wireless Communications Equipment category beginning with the Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998. It has been providing its proprietary wireless communications platform and mobile devices since then.  It Samsung, which is set to  deliver more than 4,000 units of  limited edition device to the entire PyeongChang 2018 Olympic family, including the International Olympic Committee and the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games. The company will also provide a Galaxy Note 8 to all Paralympians at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018  ~ and the Samsung smartphones became the centre of a diplomatic spat between Iran and South Korea that erupted ahead of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The Iranian Olympic Committee said its athletes were initially excluded from a giveaway of special edition Galaxy Note 8 phones that was arranged by the organizers of the games. "The athletes didn't receive phones when they arrived in [South] Korea. The reason given was because of sanctions," said   spokesman for the Iranian Olympic Committee. Iran reportedly summoned South Korea's ambassador over the incident and demanded an apology, Iranian state media reported. ISNA, a semi-official Iranian news agency, said the South Korean official was warned that the episode could have "dire negative consequences" for Samsung's (SSNLF)business in Iran ~ subsequent reports confirm that Iran’s four athletes were later handed the gifts,  which made their spokesperson state that  Iranian athletes were not treated equally and this goes against the spirit of the games !

Samsung Electronics had offered approximately 4,000 units of the Galaxy Note 8 Olympic Edition to athletes and International Olympic Committee officials visiting PyeongChang. The phones cost around $1000 each.  The 22 North Korean and four Iranian athletes missed out as organisers believe that could “violate United Nations’ sanctions that ban providing the countries with luxury goods and products that can potentially be used for military purposes,” the committee said.  Now the head of the Pyeongchang Olympics' organising committee has apologised to Iran after a diplomatic row broke out over commemorative Olympic smartphones.  Reports of the snub have resulted in the South Korean ambassador to Tehran being summoned to the Iranian foreign ministry. The Iranian prosecutor-general has also ordered that Samsung's boss in Iran be summoned for questioning, and on social media many tech-loving Iranians are now calling for a boycott of Samsung products.   It was also widely reported in the Iranian media that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, was considering changing his own Samsung Galaxy S8 handset for a different model.

For Samsung, this was clearly worrying news.  Iran, which has a huge population of young people, is the biggest smartphone market in the Middle East. It is estimated that some 48 million people in Iran own the devices. And crucially, it's a market that is still growing. Possibly sensing a business opportunity, Samsung's South Korean rival, LG, was quick to intervene in the row, announcing it would give every Iranian athlete competing in the Winter Olympics a top-end smartphone as well as a 55-inch (140cm) TV.  There is more to be read as North Korea's Olympic athletes have refused to accept special edition Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphones that have been handed out to competitors from other countries.  While there were concerns that the free phones could   violate strict UN Security Council sanctions punishing Kim Jong-un's regime for his nuclear weapons programme, there is a  ban on exporting luxury goods to the North and on goods that could be used for military purposes too.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Feb 2018.

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