Argentina, of course, claims the Falklands as the “Islas Malvinas” and, in the 30th anniversary year of its former military dictatorship’s 1982 invasion of the Islands, that’s a sensitive topic. It’s even more so because, in principle at least, the Olympics is supposed to be politically neutral, and the International Olympic Committee was not amused: in a statement last week, the IOC stated that “The Olympic Games should not be a forum to raise political issues and the IOC regrets any attempts to use the spotlight of the games for that end.”
Argentina’s own Olympic Committee offered a tepid response, but some of the country’s athletes were more outspoken. Gold medal cyclist Juan Curuchet (Beijing, 2008) even stated that ill-feeling engendered by the ad could affect the team’s morale, and criticized the government’s retention of training equipment in Argentine customs: “The spot says we are training in the Islands but in reality many of the athletes can’t even train here because all the equipment and materials remain retained by customs” because of import restrictions. According to Curuchet, the government’s sports secretary told him that the equipment could not be released until the athletes themselves exported an equivalent value of goods.
The fact is, this sort of empty gesture politics, directed toward a domestic audience, makes Argentina look petulant on the international stage. Still, if creativity cannot be censored, perhaps the best response is the parody, inserted here, that appeared shortly after the original ad.
A Bit of Background
As a Fulbright-Hays scholar, I spent a year-plus in the Falklands, from January 1986 to February 1987, accompanied by my Argentine wife (who, however, traveled on her US passport; at that time, only four years after the South Atlantic War of 1982, Argentine passport-holders were not welcome in the Islands). She was the first Argentine to do so after the war, though that’s a little misleading – even during and after the conflict, several Argentine civilians were and are long-term residents, most of them married to Islanders. One of them held a high position in the governor’s office and another, with dual nationality, is even a policewoman in Stanley.
Despite the recency of the conflict, my wife arrived in the Islands with no political agenda and, because she is a gregarious person and a good listener, she made many local friends in the course of our 13-month stay – even though Islanders soon learned of her nationality (there are few secrets in a town the size of Stanley, and news spreads quickly). We even shared a house in Stanley with one of them, and have hosted visiting Islanders in our California home.
I have been fortunate enough to return to the Islands several times, in the course of creating and updating my guidebooks, most notably Moon Handbooks Patagonia. Though my wife would like to return, complex logistics and her own work schedules have so far made that impossible. But I have no doubt she’ll return one day, without waving anybody’s flag.