BY CHARLY MORALES VALIDO | Prensa Latina
TODAY, at the Jose Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuban President Fidel Castro received the sports delegation that represented the island at the 28th Olympic Games in Athens.
At the foot of the aircraft steps, the head of state greeted the 135 athletes who had just arrived from the Greek capital one by one. Another group of their colleagues returned to Havana last week.
During a brief exchange with the sportsmen and women, Fidel commented that he believed Athens 2004 will talked about for many years to come and referred specifically to several outstanding performances by the Cuban team.
The Cuban leader praised the courage displayed by the baseball team who won their third Olympic title, as well as the boxing squad and the “impressive number of consecutive victories achieved.”
“For the first time, we witnessed a boxing competition in which the referee maintained a just position, although not one hundred per cent, but there were no fights that were scandalously stolen,” he commented.
He dedicated some words of encouragement to hammer thrower Yipsi Moreno, who won the silver medal, as well as to the women’s volleyball team who had needed just a little more luck in their semifinal match against China.
Fidel Castro criticized the trading of those athletes born in poor or underdeveloped countries in order to compete for other more powerful nations.
With respect to the future, the president assured those present that the resources needed to increase development in sports would be available and concluded his welcome speech by congratulating all the Cuban Olympians.
Shortly before, Osleidys Menendez – Olympic champion in the women’s javelin – spoke on behalf of her colleagues with advice to make the most of the experiences gained in the Greek tournament and begin preparations for Beijing 2008.
She called on them not to allow themselves to be dazzled by gold medals, as “all the glory of the world lies in a grain of corn”, quoting Cuba’s national hero, Jose Martí.
For his part, Humberto Rodríguez, president of the Cuban Sports Institute, condemned the increasing commercialization that prevails in large scale international competitions dominated by the most developed countries.
He also recalled Cuba’s role in training athletes from other regions of the world, through sports cooperation agreements and by sending coaches to other countries on international missions.
Cuba finished in eleventh position in Athens with nine gold, seven silver and 11 bronze medals.