An Olympic legend has been forced to apologise for a racist slur against the Irish on live television in Britain.

Former decathlon champion Daley Thompson, who is black, could lose the chance to light the Olympic torch in London on Friday night as a result of his gaffe.

Thompson has been hit with a deluge of criticism since his anti-Irish joke on the BBC programme The One Show last weekend.

Programme bosses were forced to apologise live on air twice after Thompson’s slur.

The 53-year-old erred when he was shown a photograph of a torch bearer with the words ‘OYLMPIC torch bearer’ tattooed onto her arm.

Images of the mis-spelt tattoo have gone global on the internet but Thompson took an anti-Irish stance when he commented on the photo and said: “The tattooist must have been Irish.”

Presenter Matt Baker immediately informed Thompson that the tattoo had been done in the US. Baker apologised to viewers, and his co-host Alex Jones issued a second apology at the end of the show.

The BBC have confirmed that they have received dozens of complaints from angry viewers.

The English media believe the incident will cost Thompson his chance of lighting the Olympic flame at Friday night’s opening ceremony in London.