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Argentina exposed as third team in 'slant eyed' Olympic race row

LONDON - Argentina's Olympic women's football team has been exposed as the third Olympic team photographed making "slit-eyed" gestures, while wearing their Coca-Cola-sponsored kit.

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A picture of the Argentine team pulling back the skin on the side of their eyes in an impersonation of Chinese people has emerged on the internet following similar, widely-criticised photographs of the Spanish Olympic basketball men's and women's teams.

Last week a photo emerged of the members of Spain's Olympic women's tennis team pulling the same pose ahead of a match against China earlier this year.

The picture of Argentine women's football players Maria Potassa, Eva Gonzalez, Fabiana Vallejos and Andrea Ojeda was first published on August 5 in the Argentine sports newspaper Ole to accompany a preview of the team's first match of the tournament against Canada.

It was taken a week before the Spanish ads and did not cause controversy at the time but has since surfaced on the internet.

The picture of the Spanish basketball men's team ran as a newspaper spread in Spain as part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur.

Some of the Spanish players involved in the photos are said to be shocked that people may find them offensive because the gesture is apparently not considered offensive in Spain.

Madrid is one of the four finalist cities to host the 2016 Olympics and some Spanish commentators have suggested that the race row is a conspiracy to damage its chances.

Spanish centre Pau Gasol, who plays for the LA Lakers, said: "It was supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way. I'm sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive."

Point guard Jose Manuel Calderon said: "We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture. Without a doubt, some...press didn't see it that way."

Juan Antonio Villanueva, the communications director for Madrid’s 2016 Olympic bid, said: "Spain is not a racist country -- quite the opposite."

However, Spain has a repeated history of racism in sport. Earlier this year Lewis Hamilton was abused in Spain during testing ahead of the Spanish grand prix.

Last year, Carlos Gracia, head of the Spanish motorsport federation said prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix: "It is ironic the racists in England are having to rely on a coloured pilot."

In 2004 Spanish national football coach Luis Aragones made abusive racist comments about French striker Thierry Henry.

In that same year English footballers including Carlton Cole, Jermaine Jenas, Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were abused by Spanish fans who made monkey chants.

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