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Spain still speechless over anthem

  • Story Highlights
  • Approaching Olympic Games creates impetus to find words for Spain's anthem
  • Panel rejects winning song because of controversial lyrics
  • 7,000 Spaniards competed to find words for anthem
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- The search is back on for words to the Spanish national anthem.

Spain's basketball team: Able to hum the national anthem, but not sing words.

The lack of lyrics in Spain's anthem has long created awkward moments for winning Spanish athletes at the Olympics. They stand on the podium silently or hum along while winning athletes from other nations sing when their anthem is played during their moment of triumph.

With the summer Olympic Games fast-approaching, the Spanish Olympic Committee stirred the lyric-writing impulses of Spaniards by sponsoring a competition to provide words for the anthem.

The contest drew 7,000 entries, and an expert panel selected a winner. The committee announced plans for renowned Spanish tenor Placido Domingo to sing the lyrics on Monday.

Then, suddenly, the committee discarded the winning lyrics.

"Once Spaniards heard these lyrics, they sparked a lot of controversy, even rejection," Alejandro Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, told a packed news conference this week.

The now-discarded winning lyrics had begun with, "Viva Espana," or "long-live Spain," and critics complained that phrase harkened back to the right-wing dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who led a military uprising in 1936 against the elected government and won a Civil War, ruling Spain until his death in 1975.

"You have to consider that many Spaniards don't consider the national anthem as their own. It was played a lot under Franco," said Margarita Saenz-Diez, a journalist.

Spain is now a democracy, but many still bristle at the military march that's served for more than two centuries as the national anthem.

Spain is made up of many different peoples, and five languages are spoken across the country. The Catalans in the northeast and the Basques in the north already have their own national songs with lyrics.

Getting agreement on any lyrics to the national anthem is no easy task and would ultimately have to be approved by Parliament.

The president of the Spanish Olympic Committee conceded he doesn't know when there will be lyrics for the anthem, and many here say there isn't enough time to get lyrics approved before the Aug. 8 start of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.


Yet the search goes on.

"We will continue with the idea of an anthem with lyrics," Blanco said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Al Goodman contributed to this report

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