Like Park Chung-hee (Asia/South Korea: 1962-79) and Idi Amin Dada (Africa/Uganda: 1971-79), Fidel Castro is a sports fanatic and enjoys watching all types of Olympic sports. Fidel Castro has visited the national team’s training camps, sports schools, National Schools Games and spent time with the students-athletes and Olympic players. Since 1990, the Cuban dictatorship has spent more than $80 million per year into Olympic sport. However, Cuba is not an Olympic paradise. Cuba’s modern sporting history has been marked by sporting defections.
Every dictatorship has a style of its own. Leonidas Rafael Trujillo had one: Dominican music. Francois Duvalier had one: Haitian culture. Kim Jong Il has one: the cinematography. He likes films as “Gone with the Wind”, a famous film American. The dictator of North Korea wrote an essay “On the Art of Cinema”.
The Idi Amin Dada regimewas notorious for torturing political prisoners, forbidding dissent and free speech. Under the dictatorship of Idi Amin Dada, about 350,000 people were killed. But he loves Olympic sports like Fidel Castro Ruz. During 1970s he had become an outspoken champion of sport in the Third World. I remembered that the Ugandan team won two gold, four silver and three bronze medals during the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1974. Overall Ugandan team ranked tenth, before Wales, Trinidad Tobago, Tanzania and Jamaica.
Fidel Castro once said: “What has Cuba’s role been in the Olympic Games? What has it achieved? What has been the fruit of our efforts to promote healthy clean sports? At the 1972 Olympics, we finished 14th among 122 countries. At the Montreal Olympics in 1976–Juantorena remembers this well, and so do we–we finished 8th among 88 participating countries. In 1980, in Moscow we finished 4th among 81 countries; in 1992, in Spain we finished 5th among 169 countries; and in Atlanta, in 1996 we finished 8th among 197 countries. Could anyone refuse these figures”. But under one of the world’s oldest surviving dictatorships, the sport has become a useful way for women and men to access to freedom.
Certainly, Cuban sport is a story of both frustration and miracles. The Cuban government reacted with increduly when in 1980 Roberto Urrutia, a weightlifter, unexpectedly announced his decision to seek asylum in the United States. At the age 14 Urrutia made weightlifting high top priority, and ten months later he established national records. Urrutia entered the 1975 Pan American Championship at the age of 18 and won gold medals for Cuba. In December, in Matanzas, he become the first Latin American weightlifter to obtain a World record. In 1976 he finally realized his dream of competing in the Olympics. Like Alberto Juantorena (track and field), Teofilo Stevenson (boxing) and Mireya Luis Hernandez (volleyball), Roberto Urrutia Hernandez, former member of Youth Communist Union, was a symbol of the Cuban Revolution. Roberto, was born on December 12, 1956, in La Havana, won 3 gold medals at the 1978 Weightlifting World Championships and ended world Soviet’s-year domination of international weightlifting. Certainly, he was voted Hero of the Year by Prensa Latina. Before the Moscow Olympic Games, Roberto Urrutia defected to the United States via Mexico.
In the past few years, we have seen a number of events take place: Taimaris Aguero, a player, came to seek freedom in Italy; Odelin Molina, an outstanding footballer from La Havana sought political asylum in the United States; and Dulce Tellez, a sportswoman, came to San Juan de Puerto Rico.
Aguero, who at 1,77, was considered one of the best female athletes in the Americas, at the age of 16 she become the youngest person ever to be a member of Cuban Team. During the 1993 World Junior Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Aguero finished first in the competition for best setter. When Tanya Ortyz, setter from 1987 to 1995, announced her intention to retire at the end of 1995, Aguero was considered a leading candidate for the post. Therefore, she was keywoman when Cuba finished first at the 1998 World Championship. In 2000 Aguero helped the Cuban team reach victory at the Olympic Games. If not the greatest setter ever, she is certainly the most celebrated in volleyball history. Nowadays Taimaris Aguero is one of the most remembered and dearest sportswomen by Cubans. Behind baseball, volleyball is the most popular sport in Cuba.
Dulce Tellez was named best player in the 2006 Pan American Championships in Puerto Rico. Under her leadership Cuba won the bronze medal in volleyball in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. She left Cuba in July 2006–three months before the World Championships in Tokyo. Before the 2006 World Championships, Cuba was ranked 3rd in the world. Now it is ranked 7th. Meanwhile, Odelin Molina, was born on August, 1974, in La Havana, was one of Cuba’s best footballer and played the 1991 World Championship Under-16 in Italy. In 1995 he defected to the United States, where he lives now.
1. Abvin S