Olympics: Spain's eye-catching faux pas
Monday August 11 2008
The Spanish basketball team pose for an advertisement.
Spain's Olympic basketball teams have risked upsetting their Chinese hosts by posing for a pre-Games advert making slit-eyed gestures. The advert for a courier company, which is an official sponsor of the Spanish Basketball Federation, occupied a full page in the sports daily Marca, the country's best-selling newspaper.
The advert features two large photographs, one of the men's basketball team, above, and one of the women's team. Both squads pose in full Olympic kit on a basketball court decorated with a picture of a Chinese dragon. Every single player appears pulling back the skin on either side of their eyes. The advert carries the symbol of the sport's governing body.
No one involved in the advert appears to have considered it inappropriate nor contemplated the manner in which it could be interpreted in China and elsewhere. No offence was intended by the advert, but whether the Chinese see it that way is a different matter and it is likely to provoke more criticism at a delicate time for Spanish sport. The failure to recognise the potential consequences is striking in the light of the problems Spain has had with issues of race and the Spanish Olympic committee's continued desire to host the Games in Madrid in 2016 or 2020.
In the past the Spanish have been left in no doubt as to the sensitivity of racial issues internationally, especially since Spain's football manager, Luis Aragonés, made his infamous remark about Thierry Henry, monkey chants greeted England's football players in a friendly game in Madrid and the formula one driver Lewis Hamilton was subjected to abuse in Barcelona