From the very start of the men's basketball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, fans of Lithuania's national team have seemed louder, more energetic and more engaged than backers of any other national side in the competition, drawing comparisons to the sort of jacked-up partisan crowds you might see at the World Cup or a major European club football match. They have, by and large, been sensational representatives for a hoops-crazed country that desperately wants to see a successful run for its national team, which has not scored an Olympic medal since taking bronze in 2000.
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Unfortunately, according to Justin Davenport and Mark Blunden of the London Evening Standard, one fan crossed the line from zealous to zealot during Lietuva's 72-53 win over Nigeria on Tuesday, spewing racist chants from the stands and getting arrested for his invective.
Undercover police infiltrated the crowd and seized the man during the game between Lithuania and Nigeria at the basketball arena in the Olympic Park.
One witness reported hearing monkey chanting from a group of Lithuania supporters.
A female [Olympic volunteer] who was at the arena said: "There was a whole block of men, they were mostly drunk.
"It seemed to go on for about an hour, the noise they were making was deafening and I definitely heard monkey chants."
The 36-year-old fan, who has not been identified, was arrested "on suspicion of a racially aggravated public-order offence," according to a Scotland Yard spokesman. It is just the latest among several racially tinged incidents to have arisen in London over the past week.
First, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou lost her shot at competing in the games after posting a tweet about Africans and the West Nile virus; several days later, Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was sent away following a discriminatory tweet about his South Korean opponents. And now, monkey chants.
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Making matters worse, it sounds like this was just the most recent instance of racially insensitive behavior from a small group of Lithuanian fans. According to the Evening Standard, the undercover operation that eventually nabbed the 36-year-old fan was initiated following multiple public complaints "about the behaviour of a small section of Lithuania supporters during a match against Argentina on Sunday," which included what appeared to be a fan (reportedly the same one later arrested) directing a Nazi salute at two black volunteers.
Lithuania fell to France by a score of 82-74 on Thursday morning in its third game of preliminary-round pool play. Tony Parker of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs scored 27 points to lead all scorers, and Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers added 21 to pace France to a 2-1 mark and a momentary tie with Argentina for the points lead in Group A. The 2-0 United States faces Nigeria in the final game of Thursday's action; a win would once again place the U.S. alone atop Group A.
With the loss, Lithuania (1-2) drops into fourth place in Group A. The top four teams in each of the tournament's two groups at the end of pool play will advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals.
Hat-tip to The Big Lead.
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