Crude and premeditated maneuver to damage Cuba in Winnipeg


(Granma daily staff writer)


In the recent meeting of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) Executive Committee, the intentions of its leaders were obvious, as it denied the serious accusations made by Cuba concerning the anti-doping tests that implicated its athletes in Winnipeg, as well as insisting on the absolute honesty of the members and the immaculate purity of the Medical Commission’s procedures.

There were no hints of their recognizing even one of the many arguments made in recent weeks, which were repeated during the meeting by José Ramón Fernández, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee and member of the PASO Executive Committee.

With the presence of 14 members of that committee (12 of whom had the right to vote), along with various guests, the meeting took place on Saturday, October 2, in Mexico City, but was far from successful in convincing the international public opinion about the legitimacy of its conduct during the 13th Pan American Games last July and August. What it finally achieved was to further immerse itself in the mud of its numerous contradictory actions and declarations.

Because the PASO leadership insists on calling the recent Pan Am Games the best in history, while ignoring the many problems faced by the participants before and during the event, it’s worth summarizing everything that happened from the beginning.

In an October 1998 meeting of delegation heads, it was pointed out that there would be a tense situation in each one of the three authorized main villages where all the participants would be housed. And it was also confirmed that in the air force base—where, along with others, the Cubans would stay—there would only be 16 sinks, 12 showers, eight toilets and six urinals on each floor to be shared among 100 people, as well as the cafeteria’s small capacity. The organizers—but not PASO, which was absent from the meeting—pledged to seek solutions; but during the Games it was obvious that the corrections were minimal.

The elimination of certain events was a crude and premeditated maneuver to damage Cuba. Cuba stated this from the beginning, long before other countries came to realize during the Games that they were directly affected, like the skaters from Colombia, for example.

Compared to the Mar del Plata Games in ’95, there were potentially 64 fewer medals that Cuba could compete for due to the eliminated events. Other groups of events were reduced in Winnipeg, whittling away another 160 possible medals, of which Cuba had won 62 four years earlier.

The "justification" was that of adhering to the Olympic program. But how could they decide to reduce popular events which are traditional in the Pan American Games (diving, rhythmic gymnastics, judo, weightlifting, wrestling, rowing, taekwondo, shooting, and archery), while maintaining a bulky program of 39 events? Some of the latter weren’t Olympic sports or even popular, like water skiing, squash, racquetball, and badminton, just to cite four, revealing the elitism of the North American representatives, to the extreme that the United States and Canada split between them all 19 gold medals in these events.

The demand that all delegation participants had to have visas to enter Canada was a clear step backwards, because it had been replaced many years earlier in multiple competition events by the sports identification card, a document that eased the accreditation paperwork, especially for large delegations like ours. Many attempts were subsequently made to implement such a policy, but the Canadian authorities never agreed to that, nor did they renounce the idea of making athletes pay to attend events in support of their fellow delegation members.

I remember that in the early stages, when there was discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Winnipeg to host the Games, Mexican Carlos Andrade, president of the campaign to host the Games in Guadalajara in 2003, told Granma that they wouldn’t neglect their promises or they would adjust them along the way. He was directly referring to the problems related to other potential venues such as Winnipeg.

One hundred days before the Games, in mid-April, Cuba had warned that "we don’t doubt that the Miami mafia will try to obstruct our progress with one or another type of scheme. We trust that the Canadian authorities will be able to guarantee the safety and tranquillity of the athletes, as we have done with all the delegations that visit us. In any case, that is the host’s obligation."

However, from the very first day of the Games, even before the official opening ceremony, the head of the Cuban delegation, Humberto Rodríguez González, had to demand respect for Cuban sports. The president of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) argued before the press that lamentably many of the newspapers, radio stations and television channels were echoing the campaign of provocation toward the Cubans and were offering details concerning what they had to do to defect, while hardly mentioning the various cases of athletes from other countries who abandoned their respective delegations and hid from local authorities to remain in Canada, considering the fact that they didn’t receive even remotely the same facilities as the Cubans who defected.

The Cuban athletes’ contact with the press was logically limited, because they were too aggressively pursued with questions about defections and politics, having practically nothing to do with sports.

On the other hand, the accredited journalists complained at the beginning about the lack of information for the press, and even at the end were "joking seriously" about the pestering presence of clouds of mosquitoes whose bites didn’t allow the spectators to view the competitions in peace, and about how "appropriate" it would have been to choose the mosquito as the official mascot.

Since they couldn’t even cooperate with the Pan American family in something as elemental as the identity card in place of visas, which even the United States put into practice in Indianapolis ’87; since promises were broken; and since visiting athletes were harassed from the moment of their arrival, and this harassment was tolerated¾ and perhaps even supported?¾ by the hosts, is it really possible to say that these were the best Games ever?

And this is only part of the story.