Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner will not be attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, according to a report in The Independent. The newspaper describes this as a “snub” to the UK by Buenos Aires:
Argentina has decided not to send its president to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in a diplomatic snub to Britain at a time of growing tensions over the Falkland Islands.
The Foreign Office has boasted that London 2012 will attract more heads of state and foreign dignitaries than any other previous Olympic tournament. But Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will be conspicuous only by her absence.
In reality, this is not a “snub,” but a humiliating climbdown by Mrs. Kirchner, after her government was sharply reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee following the broadcast in May on Argentine state television of a highly offensive propaganda video featuring Fernando Zylberberg, a member of the Argentine men’s hockey team running through the streets of the Falklands capital Port Stanley with the slogan “to compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil.” William Hague rightly described this at the time as a “sad stunt," and The Telegraph's Will Heaven appropriately called it "the lowest form of diplomacy." The IOC subsequently warned Kirchner 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.
Just this week, the Kirchner administration was compelled to give reassurances to International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge that Argentina would not be making political demonstrations of any kind during the Olympics, after concerns were raised by the British Foreign Office. Jeremy Browne, the FCO Minister responsible for South America, had called on Argentina in an interview with The Financial Times not to ruin the Olympics by using it “as a platform to try and make wider political points” over tensions in the South Atlantic.
It is doubtful that anyone in London will miss the presence of the volatile Cristina Kirchner, whose mounting threats and sabre-rattling over the Falklands have become a national embarrassment for Argentina. Mrs. Kirchner cuts an increasingly isolated figure on the international stage, and her absence at the Olympic Games will only reinforce the image of a recklessly demagogic Latin American leader who has become a major liability to her own country.
First appeared in The Telegraph