The deputy mayor of Euro 2012 host city Gdansk in northern Poland described the city's residents as "normal civilised white people" in a radio broadcast Tuesday before apologising in a local newspaper.
"I thank residents and city employees for behaving like normal civilised white people toward our guests who have in turn also behaved like normal white people," Andrzej Bojanowski, 40, said in the radio interview.
The Baltic port of Gdansk is one of four Polish cities hosting the 16-nation, quadrennial Euro 2012 football championships in June along with four cities in Ukraine.
Bojanowski promptly followed up the controversial statement with an apology in the local edition of the liberal-minded Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
"I apologise to anyone I may have hurt with the clumsy phrasing I used this morning in a live broadcast. I simply wanted to thank residents and guests, whatever the colour of their skin," he wrote.
An official from the Polish anti-racism Foundation for Freedom said this was "an example of the extent to which stereotypes and xenophobia are rooted in the mentality and language" of Poland.
"I'm certain that the deputy mayor of Gdansk had no ill will and that he used the phrase unconsciously," foundation official Krzysztof Jarymowicz told Gazeta Wyborcza.
The Euro 2012 football showcase kicked off June 8 in Poland's capital Warsaw with a 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece. The final will take place July 1 in Ukraine's capital Kiev.
Gdansk held its first Euro 2012 match on Sunday with Spain and Italy drawing 1-1. Other nations to compete at the Gdansk stadium include Ireland and Croatia, while Germany will be based in the city during the championships.