Egyptian athlete says Olympic team outfitted with Nike knockoffs
CAIRO -- A swimmer on the Egyptian Olympic team complained Wednesday that athletes were given "fake" Nike gear before they left for the Summer Games in London, raising the prospect that the Egyptian Olympic Committee may have fallen victim to a counterfeit scam.
Yomna Khallaf, a synchronized swimmer on the Egyptian team, said on Twitter that the workout bags she received have a "big Nike logo in the front and the zippers are Adidas.”
Khallaf, who left for the Games on Wednesday, said that when she confronted the committee it responded with a "take it or leave it" attitude, forcing her to pay about $330 for suitable gear.
"It’s so frustrating that we had to pay an extra 2,000 [Egyptian] pounds to have other proper stuff to wear so that we can look OK, not even good," she said.
The controversy swept through Egypt's social media.
"What a disgrace! Egypt's official Olympic team caught with fake Nike trainers and bags!" Dina Amer poster on Twitter. Sarah El Battouty posted: "Nike issue shows how far corruption is in our system. Our athletes need to be respected and not distracted. [I'm] furious."
When asked about Khallaf’s allegations, the Egyptian Olympic Committee’s secretary-general, Motaz Sonbol, said the committee was shocked to find out the gear was not "directly from Nike."
He said the committee would resolve the issue internally to avoid being penalized, especially in these "difficult" economic times.
"We are talking with the distributor of Nike in Egypt on how to resolve this issue, because we are very concerned with the consequences that may follow," he told The Times, saying the attire was chosen from options provided by the Nike distributor in Cairo.
"We are not clothing line experts -- we believed that this distributor was genuine, but the gear may or may not be authentic," he said.
Nike was recently made aware "that the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) chose a vendor for its athletes' training and village wear who is alleged to have supplied counterfeit footwear and apparel bearing the Nike trademarks," Ryan Greenwood, head of corporate communications for Nike United Kingdom & Ireland, said in an emailed statement.
"On July 20, 2012, Nike also sent a written communication to the EOC requesting the Committee to take immediate action. To date, we have not received a response," Greenwood added. Nike called it an "isolated incident."
Before heading to London, Khallaf and her team met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in a ceremonial conference. Egypt sent 117 athletes to the Games.
-- Reem Abdellatif
Photo: Egyptian Olympic team members leave the Royal Artillery Barracks training facility in London. Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images