The International Tourism Trade Fair (Fitur) opened in Madrid this week, leaving the city red-faced after reportedly demanding its own promotional stand be repainted because it "looked like a gay stand".
Less than 24 hours before the major tourism event’s grand opening, representatives from Madrid’s town hall reportedly told workers to repaint the awning over the stand because it looked '"too gay".
According to witnesses quoted in Spanish daily, El Mundo, workers laboured late into the night on Tuesday repainting the stand.
But Madrid’s city hall denied changing the look of the stand for this reason saying the colour scheme was changed "because it did not match (the specifications of ) the original project.".
The stand, dedicated to selling Madrid in all its glory, includes a football pitch, a nod to the city’s rich football heritage, one of the main draws for many visitors.
A worker at the Tourism Fair snapped 'before' and 'after' shots of the stand, showing how the original look, a rainbow of different colours, was toned down by adding darker stripes of black and grey.
The project was carried out by Arquitectura & Diseño 01, who won the public competition to design Madrid’s stand.
"Our idea with the multicolour design was nothing more than to show Madrid as a welcoming, open and cosmopolitan city," said Jesús San Vicente, project designer, to El Mundo.
The irony is that Madrid is renowned as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, often touted as Europe's 'gay capital'. In 2014 1.2 million people flocked to the city for its annual gay pride weekend in July, in what organizers called "the biggest pride party in Europe".
Spain topped a recent Pew Research study of countries most accepting of homosexuality and the International Tourism Fair itself dedicates an entire section of its website to LGBT travel.
In 2005, Spain became the third country to legalize gay marriage after the Netherlands and Belgium.