The Guardian September 20, 2000


Cuban sporting spirit

by Andrew Jackson

Jose Ramon Fernandez, Vice-President of the Cuban Parliament and head of 
the Cuban Olympic Committee addressed an enthusiastic gathering last 
Saturday at the Cuban Sport Exhibition Centre at Lidcombe in Sydney.

Mr Fernandez gave a report on current economic and social conditions in 
Cuba, the effects of globalisation and the US blockade, and Cuba's 
contribution to international sport.

He expressed concern over the situation in international sport today, 
saying "They have gone from the pure enjoyment of men and women in sport 
and they have turned into it into a big business."

He pointed out that the cost of holding an international competition like 
the Olympics and the corporate strangle-hold on the games meant that 
hosting the Olympics was the exclusive preserve of only a handful of the 
richest nations.

He stated that sporting success had still been achieved in Cuba, even 
without corporate sponsorship or an 110,000 seat Olympic stadium.

Cuba is fielding one of the largest teams at the Sydney Olympics, and is 
renowned in the sporting world for lending out its coaches and technology 
to other nations.

In Sydney, the Cuban team is making its medical staff freely available to 
any other athletes from nations that can't afford to provide medical 
facilities.

Mr Fernandez also spoke on economic globalisation, and was critical of the 
effect it had had over the last 20 years.

"(In the world) One billion are poor, and 100 million go to bed hungry 
every day."

"In Latin America in 1980 we were 40 percent poor. In 1990 it was 50 per 
cent. Every day the number of poor is getting higher."

"Where is the benefit to humanity? If that is the globalisation they are 
offering, we don't want it."

The Cuban Sport Exhibition Centre is featuring an exhibition of Cuban 
sporting and cultural achievements until September 25. There will be video 
presentations, speeches and discussions, and visits by members of the Cuban 
Olympic team. See ad opposite for details.

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