SEOUL (Reuters) - The president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) apologized on Wednesday after an Iranian official was thrown out of the Asian Games in South Korea after being charged with sexual harassment.
Police had charged the official following a complaint by a female volunteer at a soccer stadium. A Palestine soccer player has also been charged with the same offence after another incident at the athletes village.
OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah told Reuters in an interview that the OCA had taken the necessary action to respond to the incidents and that it would serve as a lesson to all the other athletes and officials at the Sept. 19 to Oct. 4 Games in Incheon, west of Seoul.
“We are sorry to start the Games with these kinds of incidents,” he said. “There was a quick resolution, the organizing committee and the city appreciated that the OCA did our job. But we are sorry about this.”
The OCA said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that Amereh Ahmad, who looked after the equipment for the Iran soccer team, had been banned from all Asian Games sites, including the athletes village, venues and hotels.
“I think now others will understand what is against the law and what are the lines they cannot cross,” said Sheikh Ahmad.
“Although this is a negative incident, there can be a positive from it. It is part of the Games to educate, to exchange cultures and to understand other nationalities and cultures.”
The OCA has asked Iran’s National Olympic Committee to send the official home.
“The Olympic Council of Asia has issued a zero tolerance policy for any cases of sexual harassment at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea,” it said in a statement.
“It was not a matter of a physical attack; it was verbal sexual harassment,” the OCA said of the incident, which took place on Monday at a soccer stadium in Ansan.
“The OCA will not tolerate any misbehavior of this nature and we will take a tough stance. We cannot accept this, so we have removed him from the Games.”
South Korean police had said on Tuesday the official had admitted touching the volunteer but did not consider his actions to be illegal.
On Wednesday, police told Reuters they had charged a player from Palestine’s soccer team with sexual harassment following a complaint from a female staff member at the athletes village.
The player, who was not identified, was charged without physical detention and the case transferred to the prosecutor’s office, the police confirmed.
Additional reporting by Kahyun Yang; Editing by Julian Linden