The Face Hidden Behind the Triumphs / Fernando Dámaso

The Pan American Games of Guadalajara 2011 ended and our country came second, preceded by the United States, and followed by Brazil, Mexico, Canada and others. Our athletes deserve the congratulations of all citizens. Regardless of what has been achieved, with the goal of being honest and not erroneously conceited, it is healthy to point out some features present in these Games.

The fact of the coming Olympics London 2012, influenced many countries not to send their best athletes and equipment, reserving them for the Olympics. So it was with the United States, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica and others, who chose mainly young figures, still in development, with an eye to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro 2016. In the case of Cuba this was not so: they presented their best World Cup and Olympic athletes and teams, accompanied by some young figures in development. This brought results that were unbeatable for most athletes and teams of inferior quality. In many cases it was like a lion fighting a tied up monkey. Yet, in baseball and volleyball, to name only two sports, we suffered costly defeats.

The reason for this decision is that, for the Cuban government, athletic competitions, whatever their level, are considered political battles, where you must win at any cost, and if the opponents are the United States, so much the better, as a peasant from Pijirigua would say. This leads to an over performance of athletes and teams, and places them in situations of possible injuries and exhaustion. In the scheme of sports, boxers are rightly considered the flagship of Cuban sports (those who earn more medals), as they are eternal professionals with extensive experience, who never “turn professional” like other players, and if they do decide to do it they leave Cuba and so, to the Cuban government, stop being Cuban and become traitors to the homeland, losing all their rights. This absurdity also extends to other athletes. Although in all sports the slogan appears, “Sport is the right of the people,” this is just a fallacy, as with other rights. Sport in Cuba is not massive but selective.

I was struck by the pamphlet narrating the events by sports journalists (some non-sports), saturated with an outdated chauvinism. The use of adjectives was too much, every time you had a national team athlete or the valuation of the medals earned (this gold medal is worth double, this silver is as good as gold, this silver weighs as much as the gold, this bronze shines like gold), disqualifying the arbitrators and judges when their decisions were not favorable, and the little attention devoted to the achievements of the adversaries, dissonant with the spirit of fraternity and brotherhood that should prevail in these events.

Just around the corner are the 2012 London Olympics. They will bring together the best athletes and teams in the world. There Cuba will also be present. Not surprisingly, the results will not approach those obtained in these Pan American games. There they will fight lion to lion.

November 1 2011