Argentina has stirred up its perennial debate with Britain over the Falkland Islands by airing a television ad showing one of its Olympic athletes sprinting and doing push-ups on the disputed South Atlantic archipelago, including at a war memorial.
"To compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil," the ad concludes. Besides appearing on Argentine television, the ad has been viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube.
Argentina and Britain have disagreed over who owns the islands since the 19th century. The dispute has heated up again this year as both countries marked the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of a war over the Falklands that cost hundreds of lives. Argentina wants Britain to negotiate over the islands; Britons say it is up to the islanders themselves, who have resisted Argentine claims to the territory.
British officials called the Olympic ad insensitive and disrespectful. Falkland Islanders said it had been filmed without their knowledge and condemned the video as an attempt to politicize the Olympics.
"Unsurprisingly, at no stage does the video feature any Falkland Islanders -- a clear reflection of Argentina’s policy, which is to pretend that the people of the Falkland Islands do not exist," Ian Hansen, a member of its legislative assembly, wrote in a statement on the islands' government website.
Argentine officials have rejected the criticism, defending the decision to film at the war memorial. "The ones who should be angry are the Argentines, because they have usurped our territory for so many years," Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo told El Tribuno last week [link in Spanish].
But the furor has begun to upset its own athletes, who fear it has overshadowed their Olympic bid.
"The Argentine athletes don't doubt that the islands belong to Argentina, but this is not the place to pick a fight," said Juan Curuchet, president of the athletes' commission of the Argentine Olympic Committee, in remarks widely reported this weekend in the Argentine media [link in Spanish].
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: "Tribute to the fallen and former soldiers of the Malvinas." Credit: Casa Rosada