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Swedish hockey heroes "could lose Olympic gold"

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10:23 CET+01:00
Just four days after the Swedish ice hockey team's stunning achievement in the Winter Olympics, the sweet smell of success has been overshadowed by a bitter dispute which could result in the team's disqualification.

The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) is threatening to sue the Swedish Ice Hockey Association over the celebrations in Stockholm's Medborgarplatsen which, says the SOC, broke sponsorship regulations.

"This is a serious infringement," said the SOC's chairman Stefan Lindeberg to Svenska Dagbladet.

The SOC says that the triumphant hockey team was still under its Olympic obligations. But at the Medborgarplatsen party, where 25,000 fans turned up to cheer on the gold medal winners, the sponsors of the Swedish Olympic team were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the logos of Svenska Spel and Norwegian bank DnB NOR, sponsors of the Swedish national hockey team, were shown.

"I was dismayed when I saw that the hockey association's own sponsors were on view there, despite the fact that that broke the rules," said Lindeberg.

According to the SOC, the Olympic sponsors were to have been on display in connection with team members until March 1st.

Now the SOC is threatening legal action against Swedish Ice Hockey Association - but the consequences could be more than financial, says the committee's lawyer, Björn Rosengren.

"The ultimate consequence of the Hockey Association's actions at the welcoming party is that the team is disqualified," Rosengren told SvD.

But the Swedish Ice Hockey Association says it has done nothing wrong.

"Since it was a tribute to the hockey team it was natural for us to show our partners," said the Hockey Association's chairman Christer Englund.

"Even if the International Olympic Committee has such rules we as an association haven't signed any agreement. We are only under the obligations of the IOC's rules during the Olympics themselves."

Englund said that the Hockey Association is not prepared to compensate the Swedish Olympic Committee for any lost sponsorship revenue.

He added that he doubted that the Olympic organisation would actually go so far as to sue one of its own sporting associations. But the hockey team's decision to breeze through the official Olympic homecoming at Arlanda airport in favour of the party at Medborgarplatsen has soured relations with the other athletes.

"The hockey association has shown no respect for the other associations," said Annette Norberg, gold medal winner in the curling, to Aftonbladet.

"I think their actions were small-minded," she said.

However, after initial reports on Thursday caused dismay among Swedish sports fans, the SOC insisted that it would do "everything so Tre Kronor does not risk losing its gold medals."

The committee pointed out however that "SOC does not have the last say in this question ... It is the IOC that has the right to decide."

Stefan Lindeberg meanwhile acknowledged that "our sponsors have reacted negatively."

"We will meet with the ice hockey federation next week," he said, adding that the organization might be asked to pay compensation to the Olympic sponsors.

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