Spain’s Olympic basketball team was recently involved in a scandal which hardly received any coverage in the national press. A photo of the team pulling back their eyes into slits appeared in the sports newspaper Marca, to promote the country’s participation in the Games, was picked up first by the Guardian newspaper, which described it as another example of the racial insensitivity on and off the field that “tarnishes Spain’s sporting image”. It then appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Spain’s basketball authorities said no offence was intended but the Guardian suggested that somebody should point out to the Spanish sporting authorities that there were probably better ways to show empathy with their Chinese hosts. To make matters worse, a second photograph turned up on the official website of the Spanish Tennis Federation, showing players and support staff pulling their eyes back alongside the caption “Estamos preparados para China (We are prepared for China)”. It’s not the first such incident. Luis Aragonés, the former manager of the national football team, was heard in 2004 calling the France striker Thierry Henry a “black s**t”, shortly before home supporters racially abused Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips during a friendly between Spain and England in Madrid. British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton also suffered similar taunts during a practice race in Barcelona earlier this year.


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