Falklands Olympic advert is a stunt, says William Hague

 

An Argentinian television advert showing an Olympic hopeful training on a British war memorial in the Falklands has been branded a "stunt" by William Hague.

The Foreign Secretary accused Argentina of trying to misuse the Games for political purposes and said the move would not affect Britain's position on the islands.

The provocative 90-second clip, produced by the country's presidency, says the athlete is preparing for London 2012 on "Argentine soil".

It shows Argentina hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg running in the Falklands capital, Port Stanley, and exercising on the island's Great War Memorial, which honours British sailors who died in the First World War.

The advert, reportedly broadcast on Wednesday, calls the islands by their Argentinian name, the Malvinas, and carries the tagline: "To compete on British soil, we train on Argentinian soil."

It ends with the words: "Homage to the fallen and the veterans of the Malvinas. Presidency of the Nation."

Mr Hague told Sky News: "Argentina has had some diplomatic setbacks in the last few weeks. They have failed at summit of the Americas to get other countries - South and North America - to issue a declaration on the Falkland Islands.

"I think what is happening is they are looking for one or two stunts to try and make up for that or save a bit of pride somehow. But I don't think trying to misuse the Olympics in some way for political purposes will go down very well with other countries.

"Of course, it doesn't change our position on the Falkland Islands. We will always support the right to self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands."

The Foreign Office also criticised the advert as an attempt to exploit and politicise the Games.

An FCO spokeswoman said: "We are saddened at this attempt by Argentina to exploit the Games. The Olympics is about sport and not politics.

"We are also dismayed at the insensitivity and disrespect demonstrated by the film-makers in their use of a war memorial in the Falklands as a prop.

"The people of the Falklands are British and have chosen to be so. They remain free to chose their own futures both politically and economically and have a right to self-determination."

The spokeswoman added: "There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend. The islanders just can't be written out of history."

The advert follows months of political bickering between London and Buenos Aires on the issue of the disputed South Atlantic islands.

Member of Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Ian Hansen said the advert was filmed without permission.

He told the island newspaper Penguin News: "We determine our own future, and we will not be bullied by the Argentine government, neither by their attempts to undermine our economy, nor by their constant misrepresentation of the truth, nor by pieces of cheap and disrespectful propaganda such as this.

"It is hugely disappointing to see sport abused in this way, when it is so often seen as a vehicle for unity. It seems an act of desperation to sink to this."

Falklands War survivor Simon Weston condemned the advert.

He told The Sun: "It will achieve nothing other than fuelling an argument. The hockey player doing step-ups on the war memorial is an absolute insult. I hope the Olympic authorities will see this for what it is and take action."

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been attempting to reassert Argentina's claim to the British overseas territory, but the British Government says it will not discuss the issue without the agreement of the Falkland islanders.

Last month saw the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War.

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