London condemned an Argentine government advertisement on Friday showing an Olympic hopeful training on a British war memorial in the Falkland Islands, as the agency behind the ad urged Buenos Aires to pull it.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague branded the clip a “stunt” and accused Argentina of trying to exploit the 2012 London Olympics for political purposes, while UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond called it “tasteless” and “insulting.”
The ad was aired on Argentine television amid high tensions between the two countries, as they both mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war over the British-held islands.
It shows Argentina field hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg running through the Falklands capital, Stanley, and exercising on the town’s Great War Memorial, which honors British sailors who died in World War I.
The ad carries the tagline: “To compete on English soil, we train on Argentinian soil.”
Created by the Argentine arm of global marketing agency Y and R, it was released by Argentina’s presidency and claims to be a “homage to the fallen and ex-combatants” of the conflict.
Y and R’s headquarters has now condemned it as “contrary to everything that we as a company stand for.”
Hague told Sky News TV: “Argentina has had some diplomatic setbacks in the last few weeks.”
“They have failed at a 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,” he said.
“But I don’t think trying to misuse the Olympics in some way for political purposes will go down very well with other countries,” Hague added.
Hammond said he hoped the International Olympic Committee would examine whether one of their fundamental principles had been breached: “That politics is set aside.”
The British Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “dismayed at the insensitivity and disrespect” shown by the filmmakers in using a war memorial as a prop.
The Argentine arm of New York-based global marketing agency Y and R created the advert, but the firm’s management urged Buenos Aires to pull the plug.
“Y and R Argentina created an ad for the Argentine government that has deeply offended many people in the UK and around the world. We strongly condemn this work and have asked the Argentine government to pull the spot,” Y and R said in a statement received in London.
“While we don’t believe it was ever the intention of the ad’s creators to desecrate a war memorial, they behaved in a manner that is unacceptable to our company. Furthermore it is against our policy to be involved in anything that is politically motivated. In addition, this spot was offensive to the Olympic spirit,” the statement said.
“Whatever it was the creators set out to highlight, what they produced is contrary to everything that we as a company stand for. We are deeply regretful for the pain this ad has caused and apologize to the many who have been rightly disturbed by it, as have we,” it added.
The Falklands war, which began with an invasion of the islands by Argentine forces, ended in their defeat and the deaths of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.