Thursday, August 14, 2008

SPAIN: MY BAD

The story goes like this…

The Spanish Olympic basketball team posed for an advertisement prior to the Games which appears to show all its players slanting their eyes. The ads, for a Spanish courier company, appeared in the Spanish-language newspaper La Marca.

OK, children, can you spell U-P-R-O-A-R?

Thanks to Al Gore’s invention (that would be the internet), the photo went blasting into cyberspace and several billion Chinese folks didn’t think it was all that funny.

As the uproar over the picture has grown today, more information about the advertising shot has come to light. The ad was sponsored by a Spanish courier company, Seur. Spain's team, ironically, also is sponsored by Li-Ning Footwear, a Chinese company founded by Li Ning, the final torchbearer who was hoisted along the top of Beijing National Stadium during the Olympic Opening Ceremony finale.

“Some of us didn’t feel comfortable doing it just because to me it was a little clownish for our part to be doing that,” Spain’s Pau Gasol said. “But the sponsors insisted and insisted. I think it is just a bad idea I guess to do that, but it was never intended to be offensive or racist against anybody.”

The Spanish-language paper El Mundo has a piece debating whether the ad was racist that basically called out the British press for trying to smear Spain's good name.

All of that aside, it was a ridiculous idea that was bound to upset a lot of people.

A fellow blogger notes: “Did it not occur to somebody that it might not be a good idea to mock an entire continent before the world's largest athletic competition that, by the way, happens to take place on that continent. Were they not aware of an invention called "the Internet" that allows pictures taken in Spain to be transmitted all over the world for the eyes of everyone?”

Well…no.

Here’s a shocker, the Organization of Chinese-Americans has released multiple statements condemning the picture. George Wu, deputy director of the group, said, "it is unfortunate that this type of imagery would rear its head during something that is supposed to be a time of world unity." Response in Beijing has been muted so far with the exception of some hardy booing when Spain beat China in hoops the other night.

Gasol, the highest profile member of the Spanish team said, “If anybody feels offended by it we totally apologize for it. We never meant anything offensive by it.”

The advertisement has regularly run as a full page in Spanish sports daily Marca soon after the picture was taken on July 1. However, it only came to prominence after it reached the attention of the Guardian newspaper in London this week.

(Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

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