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Keeping the Olympics and politics apart

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The Argentine Olympic Committee distanced itself on Tuesday from a television advertisement shot on the disputed Falkland islands that has triggered a diplomatic dispute with Britain before the London Games.

"The Argentine National Olympic Committee is fully committed to the Olympic Charter and the best practices of the Olympic movement," said NOC chief Gerardo Werthein, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, in a statement.

"We strongly believe the Olympic Games are not a platform for politics and we have communicated this position to the International Olympic Committee."

The state-supported advertisment, that was branded by Britain as "tasteless and insulting", shows Argentine hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg training in the Falklands - the contested archipelago in the South Atlantic which the two countries fought over in 1982.

He runs past several symbolic British landmarks and exercises on the steps of a war memorial to British soldiers.

The 90-second advertisement was made to coincide with the runup to the Olympic Games in London this years and ends with the voiceover: "To compete on English soil, we are training on Argentine soil."

"The Argentine NOC has made clear that using the Olympic Games to make political gestures of any kind is not acceptable and we will conduct ourselves in the proper spirit of Olympism in all that we do in London and elsewhere," said Werthein.

The advertisement is the latest in a series of disputes between London and Buenos Aires over the past year. A move by British companies to look for oil off the Falklands has reignited old tensions, 30 years after the two countries fought a brief war for control of the islands which Argentina refers to as Las Malvinas.

The broadcast aired the day after the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano by a British submarine, which led to the loss of over 300 lives.

The IOC said it found attempts to use the Games for political purposes regretable.

"We are in contact with the Argentine NOC on a regular basis and we have been reassured on a number of occasions that the NOC will not seek to use the Games as a political platform and will fully respect the Olympic Charter," an IOC spokesperson said.

"The IOC has always striven to separate sport from politics and honour the spirit of the Games and all those who take part."

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