One of the Australian Olympic athletes involved in last week’s drunken and “rowdy” Japan Airlines flight home from the Tokyo Olympics has denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the team, according to reports.
Earlier this week, Japan Airlines filed a written complaint to the Australian Olympic Committee against a number of Australian athletes who were reportedly overly drunk and “rowdy and obnoxious” on their flight home from Tokyo.
Allegations were made that members of the Olyroos and Rugby Sevens male Olympic teams spent much of their flight from Tokyo to Sydney ignoring directions from flight attendants, raiding alcohol from the galley, and vomiting both in their seats and in the aircraft’s lavatories.
According to a report by The Australian, one member of the Rugby Sevens has downplayed the antics, which sparked widespread media attention.
“If someone was sick, it would not be the first time, who cares?” he said. “People are allowed to be sick, that’s what sick bags are for.”
The player said the allegations of the two team’s actions on the flight were “stressing everyone out”, and noted that the backlash will see some athlete’s “reputations and contracts on the line”.
“Who cares who f–king threw up, it’s not World War III?” he added. “Why is rugby being dragged through the mud?”
According to the Australian Olympic Committee, the players involved were “remorseful” for their behaviour, however none of the players said to be involved had admitted so publicly, nor have they apologised.
Later reports suggest that 49 Australian Olympians across nine sports were on flight JL51 from Haneda International Airport to Sydney Kingsford Smith, however around 10 rugby and soccer players are under investigation for their behaviour.
Australian Chef de Mission for 2020 Ian Chesterman stated he was “deeply disappointed” over the allegations, and scolded the team officials who allowed the antics to get out of hand.
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“There were certainly staff from those organisations on that flight and I think we’ve made it very clear to everybody that we expect them to take control of their athletes in these situations,” he said.
Flight JL51 left Tokyo’s Haneda Airport just before 7:40pm local time on Thursday, 29 July, and landed in Sydney after 6am the following morning, however information regarding the actions of some Australian Olympians onboard did not surface until JAL made their formal complaint this week.
It appears the drunken antics began when the soccer and rugby teams, which were originally seated at opposite ends of the Boeing 787 aircraft, congregated together near the Olyroos team’s seats towards the back of the jet, and began chanting and singing.
A source close to the matter suggested that the players “hadn’t seen each other during the Olympics and so this was the first time they had a chance to catch up”.
According to other passengers, by halfway through the flight many of the players were already excessively drunk, and more than one was vomiting, leaving one of the onboard toilets in a barely usable state.
Other members of the Australian Olympic team, including some involved in surfing, badminton, and shooting were also on the flight, however were not involved in the antics. One member of the Olympic team onboard said she was “mortified” by the behaviour of the soccer and rugby players inflight.
Flight attendants said that the players in question refused to listen to directions to sit down and wear their masks, and continued to raid the aircraft’s galley for alcohol even after being told to stop.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said the incident is “extremely disappointing” and that a meeting had been called with the heads of both sports.
Carroll said both sports leaders were taking full responsibility for their players.
“Both Rugby and Football have told me that such behaviour is certainly not acceptable within their sports and have sincerely apologised to the Australian Olympic Team,” he said.
“The CEOs have undertaken to take the appropriate action and report back to us”.
In a statement, Rugby Australia confirmed that it is conducting its own investigations into the matters, after being made aware by the AOC of the unsafe and “unacceptable” behaviour by the Australian men’s Sevens team on the flight home from Tokyo.
“Rugby Australia has begun its own internal investigation into the matter based on the information provided by the AOC,” the statement said.
“Rugby Australia expects the highest standards of all its employees, modelling the values of our game – respect, integrity, passion and teamwork.”
Similarly, a spokesperson for Football Federation Australia also said it had been made aware of the behaviour of the Olyroos on flight JL51.
“Football Australia is discussing the matter with the AOC and is taking the responsibility to investigate the involvement of any footballers,” the spokesperson said.
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