MADRID, Spain - An old quirk of Spanish history - a national anthem with no lyrics - took a step toward oblivion Friday as words were proposed to accompany it.

But critics immediately complained that they reflect a nationalist past, not today's rich patchwork of languages and cultures.

The lyrics start off with nothing less than "Viva Espana!" - essentially the rallying cry of the late Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

They also call on Spaniards to "love the fatherland," which to outsiders may sound innocent enough, but for many people here also smack of Franco's obsession with Spain as a unitary state fending off the independence-minded zeal of regions like Catalonia and the Basque country.

"With lyrics like this, I don't think you will see me singing it very often," said Artur Mas, leader of a conservative Catalan nationalist party.

The current anthem is a military march that dates back to 1761, its author unknown. Through the centuries it has been an oddity of Spanish life that whenever it was played at official ceremonies and sporting events, Spaniards could do no more than hum along.

In June 2007, however, the Spanish Olympic Committee came up with the idea of seeking suggestions for lyrics. Many in Spain said this would be virtually impossible in a country with regions that boast their own language and culture and bristle at the idea of a single national identity.

The proposed lyrics do address this plurality, however, saying: "Let us all sing together, with different voices and one heart."

The Olympic committee received no fewer than 7,000 suggestions, and a jury of six experts - including a musicologist, a historian, a composer and an athlete - finally settled on one as its official candidate.

The idea now is to collect at least 500,000 signatures and take the lyrics to parliament to seek formal approval, launching what promises to be a long and thorny process. Parliament is now dormant before general elections in March, so a decision is a long way off.

The lyrics were leaked Friday by the Spanish newspaper ABC and confirmed by the Spanish Olympic Committee's president, Alejandro Blanco.

He said he was angry and disappointed over the leak, saying the lyrics deserved a much more grandiose presentation, but the process would proceed with these chosen words despite all the flack.

Spaniards share the distinction of having a wordless anthem with a handful of countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose anthem was written in 1985, and tiny San Marino.

The Spanish lyrics were written by Paulino Cubero, a 52-year-old resident of Madrid who is an amateur composer. At a hastily called news conference with Blanco, Cubero said he wrote them for everyday Spanish people and did not mean to be divisive.

"These are lyrics for everybody, even for those who do not want an anthem. That is why I said 'with different voices,' but it must also be valid for those who prefer to remain silent when they hear it," Cubero said.

The anthem with the proposed lyrics will be performed by tenor Placido Domingo for the first time Jan. 21 at an Olympic Committee dinner in Madrid.

Carmen Calvo, former culture minister in the current Socialist government, said she hated the lyrics as soon as she read them in the newspaper, saying they conjure up Spain's dictatorial past.

"Let the record show that I do not think these lyrics identify us with the 21st century, a modern society in the heart of Europe," Calvo said.