January 16, 2008 / 1:50 PM / 11 years ago

Divisive national anthem lyrics ditched

MADRID (Reuters) - Proposed new lyrics for Spain’s national anthem have stirred national divisions rather than pride and have been scrapped, the Spanish Olympic Committee said Wednesday.

Paulino Cubero, author of the lyrics for the Spanish national anthem, talks to reporters as Alejandro Blanco, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, looks on during a news conference in Madrid January 11, 2008. Cubero's proposed new lyrics for the anthem have stirred national divisions rather than pride and have been scrapped, the Spanish Olympic Committee said Wednesday. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Spain’s “Royal March” national anthem has been played without words since 1978, when lyrics approved by right-wing dictator Francisco Franco were ditched.

With the Beijing games approaching, Spain’s Olympic committee held a competition to find new words for the anthem rather than see its athletes hum along or chant “la, la, la,” as has long been the case.

Spanish opera star Placido Domingo was to be the first to sing it.

But the winning version was leaked and met derision in the Spanish media and among members of parliament responsible for approving the lyrics.

The anthem’s opening words, “Long live Spain!” had an authoritarian ring to them and one prominent left-wing leader said they “stank” of the Franco era.

The nationalistic tone did not appeal to separatists in the Basque Country and Catalonia.

Not even the political right showed much enthusiasm for the words written by an unemployed 52-year-old, Paulino Cubero, who said he wanted lyrics that would appeal to ordinary Spaniards.

“The words needed to unite and have a general consensus. But we have seen the controversy they have caused and have decided to withdraw them,” Spanish Olympic Committee Chairman Alejandro Blanco told a news conference.

“We are continuing with the idea that the hymn will have words and that Placido Domingo will sing them at the presentation.”

Domingo said he backed the decision.

“If these words aren’t generally acceptable, we have marvelous writers that will be able to come up with something. But I don’t want to go with something that causes controversy,” he said

The Olympic committee will next meet on January 22 to see if it is possible to find national anthem lyrics that get all Spaniards singing off the same song sheet.

Reporting by Mark Elkington; Editing by Sami Aboudi

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