Olympic legend Daley Thompson could face charges over an anti-Irish comment labelled as racist – and later described as a ‘joke’ by the BBC.
The two time Olympic champion made the remarks on a BBC television programme aired live in Britain last Thursday.
The BBC were flooded with complaints after Thompson claimed that the artist responsible for a mis-spelt Olympic tattoo ‘must have been Irish.’ It was in fact carried out in America.
The BBC presenters apologised on air for the remarks and the station has since issued a full apology.
But Irish community leaders in Britain want action taken against the decathlon champion, previously tipped to light the Olympic flame at Friday night’s opening ceremony in London.
They want local Games chairman Seb Coe, a close friend of Thompson’s, to ban him from the opening ceremonies.
One critic has even suggested that Thompson should face police charges after a recent case involving John Terry who was cleared of directing racist abuse at opponent Anton Ferdinand.
The Federation of Irish Societies in Britain has also criticised Thompson for his remark.
The Federation’s chief executive Jenny McShannon said: “We are surprised and disappointed by the comment which was unnecessary and totally out of keeping with the spirit of the Olympics’.
“The federation has called on Thompson to apologise for the comment. He needs to demonstrate a commitment to the diversity of the population of Britain.
“There are people of Irish descent in Team GB and I’m sure they wouldn’t expect to have their heritage commented on in such a way.”
A BBC spokesman confirmed that the station has formally apologised to complainants for Thompson’s remarks but claimed they were a ‘joke’.
The spokesman said: “We’ve received complaints from some viewers unhappy with a comment made by Daley Thompson during The One Show on Thursday 19 July 2012.
“Thompson‘s comments about this were clearly meant as a joke but we apologise if any offence was caused, it certainly wasn’t our intention.”
One complainant released the letter he received from the BBC to the Irish media.
The letter read: “Thanks for contacting us regarding ‘The One Show’ broadcast on BBC One on 19 July.
“We understand you felt a comment made by Daley Thompson regarding Irish people was extremely offensive.
“We have received complaints from some viewers unhappy with a comment made by Daley Thompson, and we made the Executive Producer of the show aware of these concerns.
“At the beginning of the show Matt & Alex introduced Daley Thompson to the show and discussed the Olympic Torch, showing a picture of an unfortunate spelling mistake on a torchbearer’s tattoo.
“Thompson comments about this were clearly meant as a joke but we apologise if any offence was caused; it certainly wasn’t our intention. Matt corrected Daley straight away and Alex offered an on-air apology at the end of the show.
“Please be assured we do note your strength of feeling on this, and therefore your complaint has been registered on our audience log.
This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
“The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
“Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.”
Thompson had yet to make any public statement on the controversy.