UK demands Argentina apology
Olympic flame (Gallo Images)
London - Britain demanded an apology from Argentina on Friday, accusing it of exploiting the upcoming Olympic Games for political purposes by broadcasting a "tasteless and insulting" TV advert that reasserted its claim to the disputed Falkland Islands.
The offending advert shows an Argentine hockey player training in the Falklands - the contested archipelago in the South Atlantic which the two countries fought over in 1982 - and exercising on the steps of a war memorial to British soldiers.
The 90-second ad was made to coincide with the runup to the Olympic Games in London this summer and ends with the voice-over: "to compete on English soil, we are training on Argentine soil."
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to examine the advert, strongly condemning its broadcast.
"It's tasteless, it's provocative and very insulting to the many British soldiers, sailors and airmen who gave their lives protecting the Falklands," Hammond told Sky TV.
"I think it's a breach of one of the fundamental principles of the Olympics - that politics are set aside, that nobody should exploit the Olympic logo, the Olympic message for political purposes and I hope the IOC will be looking at that."
He stopped short of calling for Argentina to be banned from the Games but added: "I think at the very least the Argentines should withdraw that video and apologise for it."
The advert is the latest in a series of diplomatic spats between London and Buenos Aires over the past year. A move by British companies to look for oil off the Falklands has reignited old tensions, 30 years after the two countries fought a brief war for control of the islands which Argentina refers to as Las Malvinas.
The broadcast aired the day after the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano by a British submarine, which led to the loss of over 300 lives, and comes as the British and Argentine womens' hockey teams prepare to meet on Saturday in London for a pre-Olympic warm-up match.
The advert shows Argentine hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg going through early-morning training exercises on the Falklands.
He is seen running past several symbolic British landmarks like the Globe Tavern in the capital Port Stanley, the offices of the local paper "Penguin News," and a red telephone box.
Most controversially, he uses a memorial to World War One British soldiers to perform a series of step-ups.
According to Argentine newspaper Clarin, it was filmed when the player was in the islands in March to compete in a marathon.
Foreign Secretary William Hague branded the advert a "stunt" and accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of misusing the Games.
Fernandez has launched a wide-ranging diplomatic offensive to reassert Argentina's claims to the remote islands, accusing Britain of maintaining "colonial enclaves" and calling on it to open sovereignty talks.
However, London refuses to discuss sovereignty of islands it has ruled since the early 19th century for as long as their inhabitants want to remain British.
Filmed without permission from the islands' authorities, the advert appeared to contradict a recent statement by the Argentine government that it would not seek political gain from the London Games which take place from July 27 to Aug. 12.
Argentine Sports Secretary Claudio Morresi told Reuters last month: "The Argentine delegation will travel to London with the conviction in their minds and hearts that the Malvinas are Argentine but all they will be going to London to do is take part in the sporting event." (Additional reporting by Rosalba O'Brien in London and Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Andrew Osborn)