Castro: 1991 Speech at Post-Pan-Am Games Ceremony
Dear Comrades: Since the final days of the 11th Pan-American Games
we have been talking with comrades from INDER [National Institute for Sports,
Physical Education, and Recreation], with the organizers, and with all the
other comrades who participated in this [words indistinct] the need to
recognize those who had worked at organizing, preparing, and carrying out the
events, because really it seemed to all of us that excellent work had been
done. This is not only the opinion of those of us who had the opportunity to
see how the games were carried out, but also the unanimous view of all the
visitors. I think it was justly stated at the closing ceremony by PASO
[Pan-American Sports Organization] President Vazquez Ranas that these, the 11th
Games, had been, [word indistinct] the best Pan-American Games in the entire
history of these events.
If we take into account the circumstances under which we had to work; if we
take into account that abroad, in other countries, those producing propaganda
against our country did not believe us capable of achieving such success; if we
take into account the difficulties of all kinds, including those of an economic
nature, it can be said that the games were an exceptional success. We were not
surprised. We had the conviction that the 11th Pan-American Games would be
brilliant, that our athletes would play an outstanding role, that the
organization would be extraordinary, but even for all of us, those of us who
had such confidence, what was done turned out to be truly surprising in all
I am not going to mention the commissions one by one. I am not going to
enumerate all of the institutions and organizations that contributed to that
success. We have seen that an event of that magnitude cannot be accomplished by
one organization alone. Such an event can only be achieved through
participation of the entire country, especially with participation of the
entire people. I was saying that even for us there were many surprises. To me
personally, the organization appeared perfect.
I participated, or rather I witnessed, many events. I visited as many
places as I could. I followed things as closely as possible, when not in the
sports facilities themselves, then through the press, which did excellent work,
[words indistinct] (?I visited the facilities) in both the host city and the
secondary host city. Very important, interesting competitions took place in
Santiago de Cuba, including many other important events besides weight-lifting,
and gymnastics in general, and sometimes it was difficult to decide which event
to choose. We would become impatient during the program, because while news was
being given about one activity, we were curious to know what had happened with
another, how such-and-such a race had ended, or such-and-such a competition, in
track and field, bicycling, or whatever.
It can be said that no event has ever been enjoyed by our people as much as
this one. It brought prestige to our country. It is difficult to imagine what a
deep impression the games left on the visitors, and what has been written and
spoken about these games throughout the world, especially in Latin America. One
could compile an anthology of comments and opinions about all that.
During that time we felt truly proud that our nation has been capable of
organizing an event under conditions...[corrects himself] that is, with
exceptionally high quality. I think all of us have been experiencing deep
emotions these days, feeling pride because this event has shown what we are
capable of doing when we work well, when we set ourselves to do so, from the
quality of the facilities to all the details and services that were provided.
Some foreign reporters said that at no other international sports event had
they received such high quality information so quickly, about everything that
was happening, as they did at these games.
I said that this showed well, that now our country can harvest the fruits
of work performed over a period of many years, because the good manners and
education exhibited by our people had not been created overnight. There were
some visitors who even told us that they had noticed differences between the
Central American Games and these games. Our public was much more knowledgeable
and well-mannered, and all of the visitors, without exception, said that they
had never witnessed a public so respectful, so hospitable, and so disciplined
as ours. Despite enormous enthusiasm and support for our own athletes, we were
still capable of recognizing and admiring the feats of other athletes.
It was truly a festival of friendship and brotherhood. The fact that it was
presented with such high quality reflects what we are now. Just as a nation
cannot become spectators and sports lovers through improvisation, especially
with hospitality and manners, we could not have produced the quality of our
athletes through improvisation. Through them we could also see the results of
the years, the work in this field over the years [words indistinct] 140 gold
medals, certainly. That was more than any of us expected.
Predictions were made, and let us admit that predictions are always more
or less conservative, as protection against great disappointment. We had
predicted around 76 gold medals. Then we began to dream, as the events
unfolded, of perhaps 100. Soon we said maybe [words indistinct] and we reached
110. We next said: But will we reach 120? How could that be possible? Then,
during the final days, there was a time when the Americans-they are a sports
power-caught up with us and passed us. But then the final phase came. It was a
hard-fought finish. With one day left, everyone was tallying up the remaining
events, and saying: What will we get from gymnastics? How will we do in boxing?
And what little medal will we get in tai-kwon-do, which is new to us.
[laughter] Especially how the (?rhythmic gymnastics] ended [words indistinct]
How would our boxers do? Because by the finish we realized that we could take
first place in titles and gold medals.
Who would have imagined that! Cuba, little Cuba, with more gold medals
than the great sports power, the United States, with whom we have conducted a
strong emulation campaign in sports. It is really incredible that we would win
more medals than they did. I think in that final phase the gymnasts did a
wonderful [word indistinct] And the boxers kicked butt [?that day], as it is
commonly put. [laughter, applause] It is very unlikely that they [words
indistinct] has problems. Adding it up, we could not lose a medal that day,
that afternoon. They contributed 11 gold medals. Because in anything, if there
are three who are competing against Americans, and we lost one of those
battles, the difference would have been two: one they could have lost and one
we could have won. A similar thing happened with rhythmic gymnastics. [words
indistinct] we did not know what would happen in the end, and in the end what
happened was unimaginable. Our country was in first place for gold medals.
To tell the truth, no one had imagined that. No one had dreamed of it, or
thought of it. [words indistinct] problems, some of our athletes. [words
indistinct] but the other one came, Lazaro. It was Lazaro, right? Yes, the last
to run, with a respectable distance, he won the medal. In baseball we had
Valle's problem. His absence was certainly felt in that competition. There were
some other cases as well, of important, decisive athletes who had been injured
before, or were injured during the competition. Roberto Hernandez himself, in
his effort to participate in the 200-meter race, suffered a pulled muscle.
[words indistinct] World Track and Field Championship in Tokyo, and while other
athletes held themselves in reserve, they were here making their greatest
effort. They did not have enough time to adapt themselves. You do not know what
a 14-hour time difference means, a change in living habits, the exhaustion of
some of our athletes. I am sure that if Ana Fidelia [Quirot] had been there
longer, had been better adapted to the terrain, she would not have been beaten
in the 800m race. She would have won the gold medal. Just as I am sure Roberto
must have been influenced by the pull he had here in the 400m race. [as heard]
It is certain that the United States, with the exception ...[rephrases]
with a few exceptions in track and field, brought their best athletes. Some
might say that Johnson did not participate, or others did not attend. Those
were not generally events in which we won gold medals. Some U.S. athletes held
themselves in reserve for the World Track and Field Championships, but in all
the other sports they sent the best they had. In water polo, they sent the
world champion and Olympic champion team, the team that had just won the
Olympic championship, or the world championship, or whatever, in water polo.
In basketball they sent excellent teams, both men's and women's. In handball
[words indistinct] some of their most brilliant athletes did not come. But with
that team, with the same representatives they sent to Cuba [words indistinct],
they had won all the Pan-American Games competitions in history.
Only after the revolution did opposition to that U.S. sports hegemony
arise. Nothing but the U.S. anthem had been heard at the Pan-American Games
before the revolution, although there were some countries that won some medals
in some events. So this really was the culmination, you might say, of an
extensive effort by our country in sports development [words indistinct] prize
of history, the program [words indistinct] gold medals. It was history that put
those 140 gold medals on the chests of our people, and the Cuban national
anthem was heard 140 times.
But it should be kept in mind that in some sports, such as baseball, in
which many teams of athletes participate over a two-week period, and must win I
do not know how many games to take the famous round-robin series- which is so
strange, it can give rise to any kind of setback, because anyone can lose a
game-only one medal is awarded. The men's baseball team or teams, or the men's
volleyball team, receives one medal. Water polo, one medal. Handball, one
medal. There is one medal. There are medals and then there are medals. There
are sports that offer a number of medals.
There are sports that offer a number of medals, but they are the sports we
are weak in, because generally we are weak in rich people's sports. There are
rich people's sports and poor people's sports. In Cuba everyone wants to be a
baseball champion, everywhere. They play as boys with rubber balls, batting
with their hands, catching with their hands, and then with a harder ball, then
with a mitt and a bat. Any little baseball team can be organized anywhere. But
swimming, where do you learn that? You do not learn to swim at the beach. No
one becomes a swimming champion at the beach, even if they are on an island
surrounded by the sea. At the beach you learn to float and swim a little, but
the water is heavier and there are no techniques. Swimming requires a great
number of facilities that our country did not have. Tennis is a rich person's
sport, because only in a few facilities can two or four people participate in a
I don't think we had even heard of field hockey. I, who was very
interested in sports, did not know what field hockey was. I will tell you
something. I asked a friend one day: Is it played on horseback, or what?
[laughter] Because they said yes, I believed at one time that field hockey was
played on horseback. Because I had seen-I do not know if it was in the movies
or in some book- that the English had a game played on horseback with a ball
and an instrument [words indistinct] that field hockey was played on foot. I
think the English invented field hockey.
So that you have an idea [words indistinct] because I wanted to find
materials to put in a hockey field, a foreign company (?came to) put one in. Of
course, the companies often reduced the price because they had an interest in
having their products used at the Pan-American Games. You should know that
with the bicycling equipment, an important company [words indistinct] social
status of some of these companies. They donated tens of thousands of dollars in
equipment, so that their equipment would be shown. There were many people
wearing shirts advertising ``Adidas'' and other things, like shoes. These items
reflect the interests of companies that want their products to be known
throughout the world.
That helps us get reasonable prices, even reduced ones. The cost of the
field was lowered quite a bit, the cost of the materials you have to pay for. I
think we also won a little medal, because the foreign company that produces
those materials said that the shortest time it had ever taken to put in a field
like that was seven days. We put in our field in five days, with the
participation of the athletes, everyone working with the spirit of a
contingent. They did it in five days.
But the most interesting thing is this: Pakistan, which is [words
indistinct] the country where the sport is played the most-it is played as much
as baseball is here, for example-has lost the great lead it had. In their
effort to further develop that sport, they had scheduled the building of 10
facilities with artificial grass. You know what they told us? That Holland,
another power in that sport, has 200 fields of artificial grass-200. When I
heard that, I asked myself: When will the Africans [words indistinct] If a very
small European country has 200 fields like the one you saw there [words
indistinct] Without swimming pools, it is not possible to train outstanding
athletes in swimming. It is not possible. When will the Africans learn to win
swimming competitions? When I say Africans, I am talking about the Third World
in general. That is an example.
The horse business! We can see a lot of people riding little horses in
Camaguey. In spite of the fact that our war for independence was fought on
horseback, in spite of the fact that our war for independence was fought on
horseback [repeats] [applause], a horse costs a lot, and equestrian training
costs a lot. That is serious, because we are weak in it. What facilities and
traditions were here? I say: Well, it does not mean that we cannot do it. No,
no. We have to be resourceful. I say this because we have to innovate.
So we have a sport like swimming, which provides a great number of medals,
but this country did not and does not have the facilities. I remember when the
minibrigade movement began, we went to reserve places in Havana for a pool
complex, not one like this, but for recreation and sports purposes, both. We
were thinking about the huge number of people who go to the beach every
Saturday and Sunday, and there is not enough transportation, and there is not
enough of anything, not even bicycles now. We had the idea, and we had chosen
places for the future construction of a number of pool complexes as recreation
areas. They would not have roofs or any of that. They would be simpler, but
they would have diving boards, the smaller pools, like the one in Lenin Park.
We have a little program there for training children. But that is a
sport...[rephrases] Without those facilities, there cannot be mass
participation. It cannot be developed.
There are a number of sports like that, which are expensive. They are left
for the rich, because they are the only ones who have the chance to play many
of those sports. No kid on the street could become a tennis player or an expert
in backstroke or freestyle swimming and all those things. (?There are) few
opportunities. In deep spots in rivers where many of us learned to swim
...[rephrases] because I learned to swim in a spot this big. I do not even
know when I learned. I think I did as dogs do, I jumped in and I kicked and
swam. But you cannot develop swimmers in deep spots in rivers or at the beach.
So we see that we are weak in certain kinds of sports. The day we master
those sports...[changes thought] and I think we can master them, yes. I heard
about the famous tai-kwan-do here. [laughter] We already have medals in it.
What we have organized in boxing is impressive. In weight-lifting, it is
impressive. We lost a single gold medal by a 200-gram difference
between...[changes thought] That was the only one we did not win. Anyone would
say that our weight-lifters were heroes. Look at other sports. In target
shooting, we should be champions. I do not think there is any other country
that shoots more than we do. There is not. [laughter, applause]
What is happening? The equipment is very sophisticated. Sometimes for lack
of a little money, we do not have the right equipment. Anyone who watches the
competition in shooting sees devices that make him wonder whether he is on
Earth or Mars or some planet that has brought such cosmic weapons. So we have
to see what we need in shooting because some of these things...[rephrases] by
using the few resources we have, we can do more. Now, people, why did we not
win a medal in archery? It turns out that you can win a lot of medals in
archery. It is true that here the Spaniards wiped out the Indians [laughter]
[words indistinct] things about bows and arrows. [laughter] Those people, well,
a few were left in the eastern region. I do not know if any of them are on the
national team. So our traditions ...[rephrases] A tradition of archery does not
exist. But I have asked, and they tell me that the facilities for archery
training are relatively simple and inexpensive. We have to investigate well
what spending has to be done on arrows, bows, cords, and such things. But in
archery we could [words indistinct] quite a few medals, improve and advance
towards positions that we do not have today.
I have been asking about swimming, and I think there are about 150 pools
which were built for recreation [words indistinct] have to organize them as we
did with the Lenin Park pool. Unfortunately, we now have the limitations on
fuel, but all the children in Arroyo Naranjo Municipality [words indistinct]
Lenin Park pool to practice there. We have to look at all the available
facilities-I think there are about 150-and see how they can be organized for
mass participation, much greater participation, with these same facilities.
Sometimes the problem is a lack of chlorine, or some little pump is broken. The
pool in Marti Park has not been open for months, but the pool in Camilo
Cienfuegos Park, which is nearby, is working.
I told those comrades, we have to fix it. What is needed is minor. How can
we close down a pool for so long because of some small part? Sometimes it is a
matter of organizing who would transport the chlorine. Sometimes the problem is
not a shortage of chlorine but that no truck is available to transport it. We
should organize a program to guarantee pool operations and ensure mass
participation. We only have a few pools, we cannot wait until we have 1,000 to
further develop our swimming.
You have seen the results obtained. The pool constructed for the Pan-Am
Games can serve three purposes: weekend recreation during the summer months;
educational for intermediate and high school students during the school year;
and training of top athletes. They can use it for [words indistinct] pool that
we have there. I believe that we can see improvements even with the shortages
that we are experiencing in many areas.
We did not have a single water facility for canoeing. What is it called?
Facility, field, channel? I do not know what it is called in canoeing. We did
not have any facilities for our oarsmen. Our oarsmen generally trained in sea
water. They all started in sea water and later trained in reservoirs. The
facilities are outstanding but can be improved. For example, you cannot see the
starting line from the bleachers. Yet, all visitors were extremely impressed.
We can obtain some income from some of the rich and developed countries
whose waters freeze during winter. We have to make some of these installations
produce some income. What can sports do to derive some income to cover it owns
expenses? We have thousands of middle and top level physical education
trainers. What can we do to generate income? We have to think about it. So,
whenever a part is needed for a pump, we have the necessary part. Or, that we
may buy our marksmen whatever sophisticated little rifle they might need.
I am talking about these things that can be obtained with limited
resources to make better use of our facilities. We cannot wait until we have
1,000 pools or 25 turf fields. We have to implement different alternatives. We
will have to train for hockey in the same field as soccer. This is a sport in
which we are unfortunately unlucky. We did not have a tradition in this sport.
It is a very good sport, a very complete sport. Sometimes the almost absolute
priority given to a sport limits the opportunities of another. That happens to
us with baseball [in English], since everybody practices baseball from an early
age. I do not know why I am saying the word baseball [in English]. It must be
the influence of the Pan-American Games. [chuckles] Baseball, I believe is an
American invention but a tradition of mass participation was established in
We have to analyze all the potential available in our sports schools,
implement some system changes that are being planned, find out how to better
blend sports and education in these schools. We need more stability. I believe
these facilities will help us to continue promoting sports because we have what
no other country has. No other country has the number of sports and physical
education teachers that Cuba has. These last few days I had the opportunity of
meeting many of them at different facilities. I have met a great number of
well prepared, intelligent, scientific, knowledgeable people who are in love
I believe we can make even better use of our physical and human resources
and concentrate on the sports in which we are weaker to enhance our sports
culture and continue to progress in that area.
Yet, the experience of Cuba shows that Third World countries have very
limited sport potential. It is very sad. How can they train without
facilities? There is the example of Pakistan, which has nearly 100 million
inhabitants and I believe it has only one of these artificial turf fields. We
have heard they have a plan for a total of 10. Yet Holland, with slightly more
than 10 million inhabitants, has 200 of those fields. [Words indistinct] Third
World countries. They come to the games [words indistinct]. [Words indistinct]
and who can surpass an athlete from Ethiopia or Kenya. It is as difficult as
surpassing a Mexican athlete in the 10,000 meter race or other long distance
races. [Words indistinct] in a natural manner and in excellent physical
conditions. These are the sports in which they shine. In other words, a natural
development [words indistinct] of technique and training results in the
accomplishments we have seen. African athletes only have an opportunity to
participate and win the gold in this kind of sport. In other more expensive
sports it is very unlikely, except maybe in soccer. It is easy to prepare a
simple soccer field and train. And in this manner, they manage some
participation in such international events.
Opportunities to practice sports are as unfairly distributed as the riches
of this world. The rich and developed countries have the freedom to practice
all sports no matter how expensive the facilities might be. Most of mankind
does not have such opportunity. Athletics is a very interesting human activity.
It is a great instrument for unity, friendship, and ties among the peoples of
the world regardless of local sympathies and everyone's wish to see his team
Havana residents are not only proud of the victorious Cuban baseball team,
but are proud of Remilio's hitting. Eh? No, Romelio, the stocky one. I do not
want to call him chubby, I understand he lost quite a few pounds. They are
filled with pride and boast: Havana won so many medals [chuckles]; so reads the
newspaper EL HABANERO. Other provinces boast: we won so many medals in the
Pan-Am Games. In other words, local sympathies and emotions are logical and
easy to understand.
Sport is a great instrument for unity. We saw this at the Olympic Villa,
the friendship, the brotherhood, the communication among the peoples. Some
comrades traveling abroad during the games told me that television and radio in
several countries, in Brazil for example, were constantly talking about the
Pan-Am Games and the performance of their athletes. The whole of Latin America
followed the games very closely.
It is very sad that some countries had to raffle cars in order to amass
$70,000 or $80,000 to pay the expenses of sending a delegation. Unfortunately,
the governments of many Third World countries are not interested at all in this
kind of affair. Likewise, they have shown no interest in many other areas like
public health, education, and many more basic issues. Sports are forgotten. I
have noticed that many governments are now showing more interest in sports but
they have yet to devote a minimum amount of resources to sports. Besides,
sports also means health, discipline, and organization. I have told many of
these politicians that sports can help them combat crime and drugs.
It is very productive for any society to develop sports. This is a good
subject to reflect upon if you have experienced the events we have experienced.
The organization of an event of this nature might seem simple from afar, but
whenever you see closely the whole picture and all requirements closely you
realize that it is a very complex, extremely complex process. It is a great
accomplishment to have carried it out in such fashion. The things that the
human board did were marvelous, including the image of the game's mascot
shedding a tear. The work of the human board was outstanding. Everything else
done in the opening and closing ceremonies was also outstanding.
We all witnessed what happened that day. A huge storm was approaching the
stadium while thousands of athletes were on the field. I could see the storm
approaching and at the beginning the winds were westerly but I noticed that the
upper winds were moving in an easterly direction. Then we received the report
from the National Weather Institute that a huge hail storm was approaching and
would reach the stadium in 20 minutes. All their equipment showed it moving
toward the stadium. We could even see lightning. I asked myself what would be
the consequences of such a storm reaching this place under the present
circumstances? What chaos would develop if the storm breaks above us? I feared
for the athletes, not the public, we knew the public might just stay in their
seats, they would not panic and start running around. But what to do with those
thousands of athletes that have to take care of their health for the games if a
hail storm reaches us? A hail and lighting storm? I said what a test this is
going to be.
When I had an opportunity, I signaled some people to remain in place if
the storm came. Some foreigners saw my signal and thought: This man must be
really influential, he must have some powers. [laughter and applause] I do not
know what supernatural powers they might have attributed to me. [laughter] I
only made a hand gesture and suddenly the wind turned around toward the
stadium. [laughter continues] I was impressed, but luckily it did not rain.
[Castro chuckles] I have never seen a firmer prospect for rain but it did not
fall. [laughter continues]
The paratroopers were scheduled to jump earlier when the storm and the
winds were at their worst. [Alberto] Juantorena, who was involved in the
organization, told me that the jumpers had been canceled. But later on, when
the field was filled with several pyramids and people, all of a sudden I see an
inbound squad of paratroopers. We did not hear the airplane or the helicopter,
no one knew how they jumped. [laughter] I wondered where they were going to
land, no matter how good they are, or how much expertise they have, the field
One of them started to do pirouettes. Finally, I saw they were going in a
different direction. I wondered if they were off target. He said they had been
told to land outside the field. At one point it seemed as though they were
going to hit the electronic scoreboard. The truth of the matter is that they
executed their jump with great accuracy. They demonstrated what they were
capable of doing on the final day. The paratroopers jumped at an off-time and
landed outside the stadium [laughter] [Castro chuckles] They later showed that
they could land within a square meter radius. They are very skilled.
All visitors were very impressed by the opening and closing ceremonies.
The ones held at Santiago de Cuba were no less successful. I had the
opportunity of watching the opening ceremony at Santiago de Cuba and it was
perfect. They perhaps had more time to practice than the ones here because it
rained here almost every day and the rain interrupted rehearsals many times.
That period of time was drier in Santiago. One noticed that there was more
precision in all the movements at the Santiago de Cuba opening ceremony. It was
excellent. [applause] Are there some here from Santiago de Cuba?
I believe that people in Santiago enjoyed the Pan-Am Games and they
deserve it. They also carried out construction feats. The project that was
delayed the most was not the multi-purpose building at Plaza, but the Urgelles
project in Santiago de Cuba. It appeared as though it was not going to be
completed, but they did complete it. They were building the projects for the
congress and also had to complete them. They made a great effort and were
excellent co-hosts to these games.
Students made a great contribution. This has to be said. One also has to
remember what students did. I had the opportunity of visiting some agricultural
camps here in Havana on 26, 27, and 28 [words indistinct] university students
at agricultural camps. Do not think that everyone was having a good time. They
were there until the beginning of August [words indistinct] to the event.
There are individuals we cannot forget. They are the members of the
agricultural contingents, the people who worked in agricultural tasks in Havana
during the Pan-Am Games. I also had the opportunity to visit some camps during
the games. During that month, the only ones who worked in agricultural tasks
were the contingent members. Schools were in recess during that time.
Students doing vacation-time agricultural labor at rural schools and Student
Work Brigades had already completed their tasks. The only ones tending the
crops were the agricultural contingent members and the ones who were mobilized
in agricultural activities in Havana. They did not fail us. They did their work
when practically the entire city was involved in the games. When they returned
from work at night, thanks to the excellent television services, they could
follow what was happening. But they did not leave the fields during those days
of competition here in the capital.
September is approaching and there are many more forces at work. Schools
start now-rural schools and for students doing vacation-time agricultural
labor. September is a much better month. The Havana Province fields were not
abandoned because those mobilized forces were there. They also deserve to be
recognized among those who contributed to the success of the Pan-Am Games.
The artistic activities were also very good. I wanted to comment on that.
There is almost more art than sport involved in rhythmic gymnastics. It is a
combination, a synthesis of the two. I had the opportunity to see the
independent-or whatever they call it-artistic skating competition. I saw
couples from the United States and Canada do it perfectly. This too is more
[words indistinct] art than sport. We cannot recruit people for these
activities from the sports schools alone. We have to turn youths with artistic
talent, dancing and musical talent, into athletes for that type of activity. We
should not expect to get them from the sports schools alone. It involves art,
music, and dance. The only difference is that it is done on wheels.
I suggested this to the INDER comrades. I suggested that they study it,
that is, if we want to make progress. The level of some of the events is truly
extraordinary. The perfection and beauty some of those couples have developed,
such as the world champions who were here, was an outstanding thing. I asked
the ODEPA people when ballet was going to be included in the Pan-Am Games.
[laughter] It is a very beautiful thing. There is no doubt that it is very
pretty. But we have to decide how we will handle it.
The athletes cannot be congratulated more than they have already been
congratulated. They have received the incessant applause and admiration of all
our people. We can say that a true sports feat was accomplished among us. This
was the result. I also believe that the presence of our people encouraged and
fortified our athletes. Sometimes they won by three millimeters or by a
fraction of a second, making an extraordinary final effort. I believe that the
boxers, assessing the medal situation, also made an extraordinary effort. They
made spectacular efforts.
There are sports we need to further explore, sports in which we lag
behind. Basketball is among them. Some foreigners observed that our athletes
have enough height, but that they are beaten under the basket. Perhaps they
need to develop more weight, more mass. They might need to lift weights. It was
explained to me that even swimmers lift weights. An example is the young
comrade who gave me the....[changes thought] The 200-meter champion. Is that
not so? In the 200 meters. It is a spectacular thing.
His trainer was explaining to me that he has not been given weights to
lift because he is still too young, but the time will come when more strength
is needed. I observed that when he dove, he did not travel the same distance as
the first ones. He did not have the advantage in the beginning. That depends on
the force of the dive. He lost the lead a little when he turned around because
he did not have the same take-off strength. He won in spite of it. He won
because of his will and determination to win the competition. I was noticing
those details. I asked the trainer about it, and he said the swimmer should use
weights later to improve his strength. He said the swimmer needs to mature
Baseball players, the pitchers and the rest of the players, use weights. I
am giving this as an example. [Passage indistinct] We have to study such
things, all the technical factors so we can improve in those sports.
We need everyone's cooperation to attain that, the cooperation of the
teachers, trainers, and doctors. Sports medicine has developed quite a bit in
our country. An interesting thing is that the day Roberto [not further
identified] had the problem with his thigh, the day of the 200-meter run, I had
been talking with him [words indistinct] I talked with the doctor who was
treating him. Do you know who the doctor was? Perez Duenas, the triple-jump
champion who set a world record. He is now a doctor specializing in sports
medicine. He is Roberto's doctor.
One of the best things we have done is to not only develop great athletes,
but to educate them, give them a career, a profession. Of course, when Perez
Duenas broke that record he was a freshman medical school student. He continued
with medicine. Many of our athletes have their careers underway. There are
thousands of professionals among our athletes. You find this situation
everywhere. Former athletes work in the field of sports. The revolution created
the institutions and the Higher Sports Institute. When their days as athletes
are over, none of them is left without a profession, a career, an activity, a
job. Some continue to serve. I saw an interview with Marqueti. I believe he is
in Venezuela teaching baseball. He expressed himself very well on television,
explaining what he was doing.
I am very pleased to see outstanding athletes such as this one playing an
important role, just as we are pleased to see Juantorena involved in the
organization of these Pan-Am Games, and [Teofilo] Stephenson immersed in a
number of important activities. They are heroes of the country. Visitors want
see them, want to meet them, want to have their picture taken with them. Each
of them has a position and a place of honor in our society.
They have enormous merits and an unyielding patriotic spirit. How many
offers have been made to many of our athletes, to humble athletes, of modest
means, who live simply? How many offers have they received? We see in them
great evidence of patriotic integrity and loyalty to their country. They have
refused all the offers in the world and do not compromise their honor, their
reputation, and the respect of their people for any amount of money in the
Our athletes are simple and modest. They have won the affection of our
people. Today's homage is very fitting. We could not conclude this historic
event without this meeting and without this recognition. It has been less than
two weeks since the games ended. We want all of you who are here-all are not
present, all cannot be present.... [changes thought] Not even the members of
the flip-card section could be accommodated here. Over 20,000 participated in
the games. Only about 5,000 of you are here today. We want to convey to all of
you our deepest respect, our recognition, our admiration, and our pride in
having been able to count on people such as you to so successfully carry out an
event that has given our country such prestige and glory.
We are living in difficult times, but we will continue to carry out our
projects, ideas, and dreams, even under the most difficult circumstances.
[applause] Everything we have mentioned has been made possible by the
revolution and socialism. That is why we say with such a sense of justice and
determination: Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will win! [crowd