Lithuanian Spectator Arrested for Nazi Salute
2012 London Summer Olympics
Big or small, the London Olympic Games have been lurching from one controversy to another.
36-year-old Lithuanian spectator, Petras Lescinskas --- arrested during his country's basketball match against Nigeria for an offensive gesture --- held center-stage, with a London court reprimanding and fining him GBP2,500 for the indiscretion.
Lescinskas, who gave a Nazi salute during his team's win over the African nation, thus became the first person to be convicted of racial transgression at the quadrennial games here.
The Lithuanian admitted his guilt and said in his apology that he had let his country down. "It was a despicable act," the fan, an accountant by profession, was quoted as saying in the media.
Lescinskas has been in custody since July 31. Reports suggest that the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee (LOGOC) pressed the charges before the Stratford magistrates court in east London and, gauging the severity of the offence, the court ordered that he dish out a sum of GBP2,500.
The court was told that Lescinskas along with other boisterous Lithuanian supporters was seen making "monkey-style noises" whenever the ball came in the Nigerian players' possession.
Further, the court was told that Lescinskas was seen making a Nazi-style salute, "while placing his fingers across his lips". Lescinskas had no option but to plead guilty and was charged under the Public Order Act.
The lawyer representing Lescinskas said that his client was "deeply embarrassed" and "deeply remorseful". The district judge, Sonia Sims, cautioned the Lithuanian national and said such acts not just brought disrepute to the respective country, but also tarnished the ethos of the Games.
She said the Nazi salute was an affront to all those who had perished in the Holocaust. Sources said that the stewards were extremely alert after reports had come in that the same group of Lithuanian fans had created a similar ruckus in an earlier match against Argentina.
Armed with evidence of photographs of the Lithuanian making the Nazi salute, the police approached the court, established especially to fast-track Games offences. Eyewitness said, Lescinskas was warned by the stewards at the venue to sit down and stop using offensive language against the Nigerian team.
The man, reportedly got infuriated and lifted his arm in an apparent Nazi salute. There were also allegations that had the police taken punitive action against the boisterous Lithuanian fans in their country's match against Argentina, which the former lost 102-79, such an incident wouldn't have occurred.
Another eyewitness was quoted as saying that though the boorish behavior of the Lithuanians was brought to the notice of a couple of police personnel at the venue during the Lithuania-Argentina match, they preferred to look the other side.
A top British daily was quoted as saying that it was a sickening (the Nazi salute) gesture and the man should not be allowed to attend any more events at the Games. "They (the police and the organizers) need to make it abundantly clear they will not stand for this kind of thing," the newspaer was quoted as saying.
The Scotland Yard said they were unaware of any such indiscretion and that they would speak to the staff working in the venues to chalk out their strategy.
The chief executive of an anti-racism campaign, Ged Grebby, was quoted as saying that officers present at the venue should have acted swiftly and ejected Lescinskas, but they waited for the Lithuanian to get emboldened and indulge in "extreme racist sign."
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