MADRID Spaniards should turn to sport for relief from their economic woes, the president of the country's Olympic committee said on Wednesday as the government unveiled the latest wave of austerity measures for the recession-plagued nation.
Millions of Spaniards celebrated late into the night after their soccer team triumphed at Euro 2012 this month, but much of the lingering euphoria was likely swept away by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's announcement of a three-point hike in sales tax to 21 percent and cuts in unemployment benefits and civil service pay.
Olympic committee (COE) president Alejandro Blanco said watching or practicing sport could help provide a welcome distraction during tough times.
"We are experiencing difficult moments of pessimism, which is when people need a lift and in the end what sport gives you is something real," he was quoted as saying in local media.
"Sport generates positive thoughts and it is the great motor for mobilizing society," he added.
"A person trains, puts in the effort, competes and wins or loses, but they are trying to achieve a goal and that is the best lesson for life."
Rajoy detailed the latest cuts, designed to slash 65 billion euros ($79.6 billion) from the public deficit by 2014, in parliament earlier on Wednesday.
The tax hike will anger many Spaniards after the government had to request aid of up to 100 billion euros from the euro zone's bailout fund for Spain's crippled banking sector.
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Toby Davis)