Castro: 1992 Speech to Outstanding Athletes
Well, the truth is that this ceremony has been brief but very
emotional. It would be impossible not to mention the heroic deeds that you have
accomplished this year and the sum of all the others accomplished during these
years of the revolution. Conrado [Martinez, president of the National Sports,
Physical Education, and Recreation Institute] mentioned that the year which
just ended had been the most prosperous one and there is no doubt about this.
The emotions of the Pan-American Games are still fresh in our memory. I believe
that this was really the greatest sports event in our history. Not only because
of the fact that it was carried out with great efficiency, great precision,
great organization, and great participation from the people, not only because
every facility was completed on time-which is a heroic deed in itself-but also
because of the outstanding role of our athletes.
I believe that no one ever dreamed that a country in this hemisphere could
someday beat the Americans in the Pan-American Games. No one ever imagined it,
not even the Americans. They did not bring some of their athletes. Maybe they
underestimated the possibilities of Cuba. They did not count on a very
important factor, which is the morale, the dignity, and patriotism of the
athlete, the honor of it all. The fact that you are representing our people
constitutes a force that must be added to the effort that each one of the
athletes is capable of achieving under normal conditions.
The 140 gold medals and all the other medals that were won will become part
of history. I believe that all of us who were there will also become part of
history. [chuckles] Always present will be the tension, the enormous interest
of the last day when it was still undetermined who would win the highest number
of gold medals. Among the athletes participating that day were the members of
the volleyball team-I do not remember-the gymnastics team, and above all, the
boxers. There were 11 athletes competing for gold medals. Not one of them
failed. They won the 11 gold medals. I believe that there have only been a few
times when I have had the privilege of witnessing anything similar, the
privilege of experiencing a similar situation. Manolo [not further identified]
must know what it is like since he has been involved in sports for many years.
We lived weeks, days, and hours of great emotion. We truly enjoyed great
happiness, and all the people enjoyed it together with us when we saw the
results, which were so well deserved, well won, conquered with honor and glory.
That day was a symbol of the efforts made for 30 years by the revolution in
sports. Among this great and meritorious group of athletes you have received a
special distinction, the young athletes, the mature athletes, individually and
as a group; also a great number of former-athletes, comrades who participated
during these activities, have received these well-earned distinctions that have
been given to you today, including the flag.
Now, we have a truly important task ahead; how to keep up our sports during
the special period, not only how to sustain its levels, but also how to develop
them and how to accomplish this with a minimum of resources, with maximum
savings of energy, fuel in general, and expenses in accordance with the current
circumstances. We have been demonstrating in practice that many things are
possible; a number of games at night, games during the day, number of trips in
baseball, which is the sport that our people like so much. We have taken steps
to reduce trips. They were explaining to me that the plan is to save 51,000 km
of travel. They will hold the competitions by subregion, and then the last 24
games will be at the national level.
You have seen the greatness-well we cannot say that this championship, as
it is called, was so great, this is the selective of the national series. It
should have been a bit more even. We do not like things that end so fast. We
like it when games are a bit more competitive. We hope that this new series is
also a bit tougher. I will not say which side we are on, but we usually are on
the side of the weaker ones, even when the weaker teams usually leave us
stranded. [chuckles] And they do not let us win one game. I am not into
regionalism. As I tell people, when the national competitions are on, I am on
the side of all teams. I am on the side of Cuba, and this is when we truly live
the greatest emotions.
As I was saying, the series were held. Even under the most difficult
conditions of the special period, we can always do something. Studies have also
been made on how competitions can be carried out in the schools. We have
analyzed how to use the minimum number of people and yet maintain mass
participation. I would say that the essential goal of the special period is for
sports to not decrease, but to continue to increase and improve. We will not
be able to send a large team to the Olympics Games, but we will send a
well-chosen delegation in all the areas where our athletes have an opportunity
to excel, in every discipline were we have earned a reputation, our right to
We must do as we are doing in medicine. In 1991, infant mortality was lower
than in 1990. That would really have seemed impossible with all the
difficulties we are having. Nevertheless, it was 10.676 in 1990. We always say
10.7 because when the fraction is higher than 50, it is moved up one, to 10.7,
but it was really 10.73 or something, or 10.74 or something like that. [numbers
as heard] This year it was 10.66, eight-hundredths lower, but this meant that a
higher number of lives were saved thanks to that quality effort in 1991. We
would have been content to maintain this rate, yet it has became lower, one
sees the effect of the work done by doctors, hospitals, family doctors and the
results of preventive measures, and all that.
We must do the same in sports, not drop, but rather rise. We must
continue to develop, because we can. We have the people, which is what is
important, the athletes, the facilities. Many of the facilities do not use
fuel. It depends on when the training is done. We have the trainers. We have
the physical education teachers. We have more physical education and sports
teachers than any other country, more teachers and trainers per capita than any
other country. We must use all these resources in the best way so that
revolutionary sports can continue to progress.
I am talking about revolutionary sports, not spinelessness [merengueria].
You know that spinelessness resulted in the disappearance of excellent teams.
Along with socialism, socialist sports also disappeared. They have sold the
athletes, or we do not know what they have done, or they have sold themselves.
They have become disorganized. Many prestigious athletes in the former
socialist community are not even training any more. No one knows what is going
to happen in the USSR, if each of the independent republics will have a team,
or if they are going to keep a common team. It has been a disaster.
But our country has maintained its unity, independence, revolutionary
spirit, the revolution, socialism, discipline, and work. An organized, united
country can do anything. We are currently facing one of the greatest challenges
in our history, but we are facing it, and we are even prepared to face worse
conditions if it is necessary. Because from the revolutionary point of view,
we must be good athletes. We must be good athletes from the revolutionary point
of view. Good athletes are those who never let up, never give up, never become
discouraged. They are those who fight to the end. They have their objectives
and goals, and they go after them, and they reach them. Good athletes do not
know what tiredness is. They do not know what discouragement is. Good athletes
only know what victory is.
We must all be like that, as revolutionaries. All revolutionaries must be
like good athletes. We must know how to be like Olympic athletes. We must know
how to always win gold medals. That is what is meant by the willingness and
spirit with which our people are today confronting all the exceptional
difficulties we are experiencing as a result of the mistakes and disasters into
which others have led the revolutionary process in their own countries.
Our people admire this, as they admire good athletes. Our people
encourage this spirit, as they encourage good athletes, good teams. We never
like to see a team lose heart, no matter what kind of team it is, baseball,
volleyball, water polo, or boxing. We like athletes to struggle, fight, have
courage. So today we also have a gigantic team, which is our people, millions
and millions of patriots and revolutionaries. History will never be able to
accuse them of being soft, or of becoming discouraged, or losing the fighting
If fate has assigned us the task that is now facing all of us, we will
know how to do it. History's testimony will confirm that we were able to
confront all these difficulties and overcome them. History will confirm that we
were a great team, a truly Olympic team. This is what is also meant when we
say: Socialism or death, fatherland or death, we will win! [applause]