Around 8,000 people are taking part in the 70-day Olympic torch relay across the British Isles, which leads to the opening ceremony in London on July 27. Most of them are British, and most have been awarded the honour because of their local community work or their work to promote sport.
But a small German contingent is also taking part, and many of them are connected with Samsung, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Monday.
The South Korean-based electronics giant is one of the three sponsors of the torch relay, and so has the right to nominate a number of bearers – and has picked several senior executives, business partners and friendly journalists. The firm is also a major sponsor of the games themselves.
In the run-up to the relay, Samsung publicly invited, “people who contribute to the community” to apply for a place on the relay. The company’s German branch then sent 35 runners to carry the torch on Monday and Tuesday in the south west of the UK.
In a statement published at the end of May, the company said the 35 had been chosen for their “social engagement and particular personal contribution to run part of the torch relay in Brighton and Hastings.”
But the Tagesspiegel said that of the 26 people whose names it has found out, more than half were closely connected to the company. Nine work for Samsung Germany – including six senior managers – another six are employ by electronic goods retailers, while two are journalists who specialized in telecommunications.
One of these is 37-year-old Berliner Fabien Röhlinger, who set up a website dedicated to the Android operating system which is used on Samsung phones. His blog published on Sunday describes how he won his place:
“As one of the founders and directing editor of AndroidPIT, one of the biggest websites in the world for the mobile phone operating system Android, of course I have regular dealings with the company,” he wrote. “And it was Samsung itself that brought my attention to this great competition.”
He went on to describe how his cousin had been a torchbearer at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. “He was a very good athlete in several disciplines,”
But Röhlinger wrote that even though he played sports in his free time, he would never be recognised for his athleticism: “That I might now get the chance through Samsung was like opportunity knocking. I wrote all this in my story.”
A Samsung spokeswoman confirmed to the paper that there were “some employees and business partners” among the German torchbearers, but insisted that they were all people who “went the extra mile, in other words, people who are particularly socially engaged, or inspired others in some special way.”
The official Olympic Games website includes a space for the nomination stories of all 8,000 torchbearers – this space is empty for many of the German Samsung runners. According to research conducted by a group of British journalists, several Samsung executives from around the world are taking part in the relay.