(Granma daily staff writter)


Just four days before the start of the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, the Cuban delegation was obliged to circulate an official complaint stating that "the Cuban athletes in Winnipeg, among them a large number of Olympic, world and Pan American champions—and this in itself is irrefutable proof of the interest in contributing to the Games’ brilliance—have nonetheless been subjected to improper treatment, basically consisting of all kinds of pressure, including an excessive focus in the media on the underhanded labors of scouts and other sports merchants."

It also referred to "a series of arbitrary acts committed with impunity, interfering with the competitions, their results and the noblest aspirations of the Cuban athletes."

The Cuban declaration added that "the Organizing Committee’s attitude had been manipulative and biased in the drawing and the presentation of some events, ignoring the officially expressed opposition of delegates."

It should be noted that protests were raised from heads of other countries’ delegations in addition to Cuba’s, as international news agencies reflected. In that context, DPA commented on July 27 that the Winnipeg Pan American Games had entered a very risky area, in which doubts as to the fairness of the competitions were growing as the days passed.

The news agency added that the karate competitions were only able to start after four draws and, in Greco-Roman wrestling, the U.S. and Canadian athletes were pre-classified, completely ignoring the ranking. Oscar Santos, head of the Argentine delegation, told DPA that a boycott was even started by various Latin American delegations because the organizers were changing the rules.

He added the information that "there was an irregular draw for the table tennis, before the arrival of the delegations, and the start of the competitions had to be postponed for a day due to those problems." Santos explained to DPA that Canada and the United States were clearly favored in wrestling and table tennis, and described the format of the table tennis competition as inhumane.

Likewise, Jorge Luis Rodrígues, from the Brazilian Olympic Committee, acknowledged that the head of his country’s karate team confirmed on Brazilian television that he felt his delegation was wronged by the refereeing. A member of the Colombian delegation who wished to remain anonymous stated that the skating representatives didn’t even offer the number of medals presented up until the ’95 Mar del Plata Games.

In the case of canoeing, the same wire story recorded a Cuban’s comment: "Look, that wasn’t a lake, it was a river, and in rivers the current runs close to the bank. So the Canadians and Americans were always placed in the middle, in lanes three, four or five."

Returning to the text of the Cuban statement, it ended thus: "These perceptions serve as a warning to all responsible for the outcome of these Games. The recovery of the dignity and equity that the sports movement believed inspired them when they assumed the organization of these Games is in their hands."

Nevertheless, just two days later, the head of the Cuban Olympic Committee had to appeal to good sense and fair play during a packed conference in the main press center. He reiterated that his country’s athletes, far from testing their strengths in a spirit of camaraderie, were constantly having to confront an atmosphere of tension with the attendant loss of concentration, given that they were being subjected to telephone calls and written and verbal messages inciting them to defect, in addition to contributions made by certain newspapers. He illustrated his point by holding up a paper which was running a disrespectful competition, offering a trip to Cuba for the person who most closely guessed the number of defectors in the Cuban delegation.

In contrast, the Canadian press barely mentioned Cuban gymnast Erick López, who won the largest number of individual gold medals in the Games—a total of five. Similarly, they failed to highlight Sotomayor’s feat of winning in the high jump for the fourth consecutive time—something unheard of in track and field—later to descend on him like a pack of wolves when he was accused of taking drugs.

Don MacKenzie, head of the Games’ organizing association, who was present at the press conference, lamented the incidents exposed by the Cuban delegation and committed himself to averting situations that could adversely affect the athletes, guaranteeing them a peaceful stay during the remaining days of the competition.

However, it was confirmed that his statements were meaningless words when, shortly afterwards, the Cuban baseball players, who had had to put up with the daily presence of undesirable talent scouts in the stands, were forced to expel a Cuban exile from the field, not without giving him what he deserved. The intruder not only managed to gain access to the field, but to move across it while the security guards looked on impassively.

How could an individual like that—the same man who disrupted the Cuba-Orioles game in Baltimore—have been admitted by Winnipeg’s immigration officials? Could it have suited them for him to destabilize the Cuban team at a key point in the game? He could have been immediately deported or detained, but there was none of that. So, a few hours later, he was back to receive a further forceful response to another provocation on his part, staged outside the radio and television broadcasting center.

And as far as the stands are concerned, detestable characters like Joe Cubas who make a profit at the athletes’ expense wandered around with complete freedom in areas reserved for accredited VIPs, which were nonetheless off limits to members of the Cuban Federation.

The intimidation suffered by the Cuban athletes was so menacing that, in an unprecedented gesture, halfway through the Games, the heads of the 42 participating delegations felt obliged to release a communiqué backing the Cuban delegation’s charges of irregularities, and the head of the Canadian delegation commented separately that he had never witnessed such an attack against a national representation.

And while all this was going on, what was the attitude of the PASO Executive Committee?

At the end of the aforementioned wire story, the DPA news agency stated that given the initial complaints made by Cuba and other Latin American countries, PASO acted as if there were no problems at all.

And during the press conference announcing Sotomayor’s alleged doping, four days before the end of the Games, the PASO leadership hastened to describe the Games as the best in history, without any shame in Don MacKenzie’s presence.

Why the rush? Why the insistence on reiterating that description at the closing ceremony and everywhere else, and again at the recent Executive Committee meeting?

I am not saying that the Games in general were bad; they might have been good or even the best in certain aspects. But given the number of irregularities exposed in this article—without yet referring to the innumerable irregularities regarding the drug testing—why the insistence on such an absolute? What are they hiding or attempting to hide? What end are they pursuing?