Spain’s victorious athletes have been humming their national anthem ever since the lyrics for the “Royal March” which were written in General Franco’s era were dropped in 1975 because of their associations with his dictatorship. Under pressure from frustrated sportsmen, especially footballers who say they feel stupid when the opposing team belts out their national anthem before the game, and with this year’s Olympic Games in mind, the Spanish Olympic Committee launched a competition last year to find new words. The anthem was to be revealed by the tenor, Placido Domingo, but the lyrics were leaked by the ABC and El Mundo newspapers last Friday – and it seems nobody likes them at all. The first two verses begin with “Viva Espana” (Long live Spain) and encourages people to “all sing together with a different voice but a single heart” the “hymn of brotherhood. The third verse expresses “love the Fatherland (Patria)” by “free peoples who embrace each other under a blue sky”. The fourth verse extols “gory to the children (of Spain) who have given justice and greatness, democracy and peace, to History”. The words were immediately criticised by left-wing politicians who feel they reflect the nationalism of the Franco regime. Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) said succinctly: “They stink.” Carmen Calvo, former culture minister in the ruling Socialist government, said: “I just don’t like them at all.” The four verses were selected from 7,000 entries by a panel of six experts including a musicologist, a historian, a composer and an athlete. Their task was to come up with up-to-date words for a tune that was first played in 1770 during the reign of King Carlos III. The winner of the competition was Paulino Cubero, an unemployed man from La Mancha, replied to the criticisms, saying the words “for the people who take the Metro to work and pay a mortgage”. The Spanish Olympic Committee now hopes to collect half a million signatures before presenting the updated anthem to parliament for its approval.


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