LONDON – A political dispute between the governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina has erupted again just two days before the start of the Olympic Games.
The Argentinean embassy in London confirmed to Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday that its president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will boycott Friday’s Opening Ceremony.
The move is the latest development in an ongoing saga involving the two nations, who have been unable to find common ground on the sovereignty of the Falklands, a group of islands 290 miles off the coast of South America that are governed by Britain.
Kirchner’s move is the only act of political defiance expected at the Games, with the U.K. insisting it will welcome record numbers of foreign dignitaries and heads of state, many of whom will be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II Friday afternoon at a Buckingham Palace reception.
“The president is not planning to attend,” an Embassy spokesman said.
Britain defeated Argentina in the Falklands War 30 years ago and values the area for its natural resources and strategic naval importance.
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Argentina is determined to regain control, however, and Kirchner even tried to force a paper petition into the hands of British prime minister David Cameron at the recent G20 summit in Mexico. Still, Kirchner’s decision to avoid the Games comes as a surprise. Only last week she encouraged Argentina’s athletes to avoid any kind of political statement at the Olympics, even if they were targeted by British crowds.
“Go and represent your country on English soil with great pride and with more caution than ever,” Kirchner said. “If somebody out there makes you angry, stay calm. Show an example of what it is to be an Argentinean representing your country.
“We’re not stupid. We don’t need to use sport to stand up for our rights. We’ll defend our rights in appropriate forums, like the United Nations.”
Cameron has shown no willingness to back down to Argentina’s demands to rescind control of the Falklands. He claims inhabitants of the islands wish to continue to be governed by Britain and has described Kirchner’s actions on the issue to be “not acceptable.”
London security chiefs were concerned enough about the prospect of an inflammatory protest from members of Argentina’s Olympic delegation that it sought advice from the International Olympic Committee, according to a recent report in the Sunday Times.
An Argentina national team men’s field hockey player was suspended after being featured in a controversial commercial that saw him training on the site of the Falklands War memorial.
Raised fists on the medal stand, 1968A look back at the controversial medal-stand protest of Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
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