stealing home
Home  |  Sport and Society  |  Castro: 1992 Speech to Athletes

the debate
cuban national league
cuban baseball yesterday
sport & society
The Pride of Havana
The Diamond in the Rough
American Game, Dominican Dream
'62 to Athletes
'70 to Athletes
'91 PanAmerican Games
'91 Post PanAm Games
'92 to Athletes
'93 to Athletes
'96 Blames US for Defections
'96 to Athletes
'99 Cuban Sports
'99 PanAm Games
'99 to PanAm Athletes
'01 Cuban Sports
the defectors
web resources
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 attend.

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 spirit.

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]

back to the top