Image: Spanish basketball controversy
Susana Vera  /  Reuters
The Spanish basketball team appears in an advertisement in the Spanish sports newspaper Marca, August 13, showing the players making slit-eyed gestures. Spanish basketball player Jose Calderon rejected international media accusations on Wednesday that slit-eyed gestures by his team at the Beijing Olympics were racist.
updated 8/14/2008 2:32:23 AM ET 2008-08-14T06:32:23

Spain and Pau Gasol had said too much was being made about a controversial photo the team did for an ad campaign and Thursday they played like it in a convincing 72-59 victory against Germany.

Gasol, the Los Angeles Lakers center, scored 13 points for Spain, which was cheered by the crowd at the basketball arena.

There was no indication Spain had been affected by criticisms of an ad running in Spanish newspapers showing all 15 members of the team using their fingers to apparently make their eyes look more Chinese.

Spain’s coach Aito Garcia said he had had nothing to do with the ad and had not even seen the photo. But he grew testy when pressed by a reporter on whether the controversy had posed a distraction to his players.

“I can’t understand this. Who’s discussing this? You’re discussing this,” Garcia said at a post-game press conference.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies Thursday once again called the photo “inappropriate,” but added, “We understand the team has apologized and meant no offense. The matter rests there for the IOC.”

Beijing Olympic committee spokesman Wang Wei said Thursday he hadn’t seen the photo and couldn’t comment on it. The OCA, an organization representing Asian-Pacific Americans, found the photo disturbing.

The leader of Madrid’s bid for the 2016 Games said it was an “isolated incident” and a “misunderstanding” that should not affect Spain’s Olympic candidacy.

“We are not worried about that,” Mercedes Coghen told The Associated Press. “I think they meant it as a friendly thing. They are really nice guys. As you know they have (Chinese sportswear brand) Li Ning as sponsors.

“I don’t give more importance to it. We are talking in our bid about inclusiveness. We are talking about how we want to use the sports values to change, to create a new model of living together. In Madrid we live with 190 nationalities together.”

The controversy hasn’t been reported in China’s entirely state-owned media and Chinese fans at the 18,000-seat Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium cheered for both teams during the game with no sign of anti-Spanish sentiment.

Huang Shiren, a fan at the Spain-Germany game, said at halftime he hadn’t heard about the picture. When shown the photo he didn’t recognize the gesture.

“Are they looking at something?” Huang asked.

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