Anger as Spanish anthem's lyrics leaked

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A furious row erupted after the new words to the Spanish anthem were leaked before a gala ceremony at which Placido Domingo was due to sing them for the first time.

Spain's Olympic Committee chose the words, from among 2,000 entries, to accompany an anthem that has until now been a lyric-free militaristic dirge. The new words were written by Paulino Cubero, an unemployed, self-confessed "loser" from Madrid. "I wanted to write an anthem for normal people, people who take the metro," he said. "The words reflect what I understand by patriotism."

But instead of reaching the public first when sung by the world's most famous tenor, the lyrics were leaked to a national newspaper, incensing Olympic officials and raising the hackles of politicians, who have still to approve the winning entry.

The stirring 20-verse ditty, which begins " Viva España. We sing together with a distinct voice, and one and the same heart" and goes on to talk about "loving the fatherland", left many unimpressed.

Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the left-wing party United Left, was dismissive of the lyrics: "They stink. It seems like a hymn from the past, rancid." And even politicians from the right could only manage faint praise, with Jorge Fernandez Diaz of the Popular Party saying the new lyrics were "not bad".

In a country where no-one is reluctant to give you their opinion on anything, Spaniards were strangely mute whenever their anthem was aired. Sports stars hummed along awkwardly while competitors from other nations proudly sang God Save the Queen or La Marseillaise. Sick of this embarrassment, the Spanish Olympic body launched the competition to write some words for the 19th-century anthem last year.

But putting words to the national song was always going to be difficult in a country haunted by the four-decades long dictatorship of General Franco. If they were too patriotic, they might be thought "Francoist". But if they were not patriotic enough, right-wingers might accuse the composer of harking back to the days of the Republic before the Spanish Civil War. And if they were, well, too Spanish, they might offend the regional sensibilities of Catalans, Basques or Galicians.

The winning entry must now be approved by parliament. But whether it will be, is anyone's guess.