1. Cuba- Drugs & Scandals
Unfortunately, Cuba is already a nightmare in the Olympic Movement. Why? Since 1964, Cuba has produced athletes with a huge superiority complex and strong anti-American feeling. They have showed this anti-Olympic feeling many times. Angel Volodia Matos Fuentes, a Cuban taekwondo athlete, is the only athlete in the Olympic history that has hit a referee. This sportsman kicked a referee in the face after he lost a match at the 2008 Olympics. “We didn’t expect anything like what you have witnessed to occur. I’m at a loss for words. This is an insult to the Olympic vision, an insult to the spirit of taekwondo and, in my opinion, an insult to mankind”, said Yang Jin-suk (World Taekwondo Federation secretary). Angel won a gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in 2000.
In Atlanta in 1996, the Cuban’s women’s volleyball team quarreled with the Brazilian team during the semi-finals. This is why Regla Radameris Torres Herrera, who has received several offers to become a top fashion model in Italy, was suspended and could not play for several months. Cuban players of women’s volleyball are famous for their aggressiveness against rivals.
Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor Sanabria will be remembered as one of the worst examples in the world sports community. In 1988, Prensa Latina -Cuban news agency- announced that in its annual poll of sportswriters Javier Sotomayor was named “Cuban Athlete of the Year”. He beat out Felix Savon (boxing), Jorge Fis (Judo), and Ana Fidelia Quirot (track & field). Javier, known as “Soto”, was one of the most successful athletes in the history of the Cuban Revolution.
On September 8, 1988, Javier -whose country had boycotted the Summer Olympics in 1988- set a world record in the high jump. A year later he set another world record (2.45 m / 8′ 1/2″). Under the direction of Jose Godoy, a Soviet-educated professor, he won almost all his competitions in the 1990s.
In 2001, Javier Sotomayor, in one of a series of exhibitions tournaments, tested positive for a muscle-building steroid. “The decision to let him compete again is like a hit in my face”, said Arne Ljungqvist (vice president of the IAAF).Two years ago, Javier also had tested positive for drugs at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg (Canada). However, he had been exonerated by the Cuban Olympic Committee. Furthermore, Fidel Castro Ruz -Cuba’s dictator- denied that Javier had taken cocaine. In an article in Granma (Communist party daily), Javier said ” I’m innocent. I have only seen that substance in the movies. I´m the victim of maneuver, a dirty trick”.
Unlike Ben Johnson and Linford Christie, Javier received a special treatment by the IAAF. He was banned by the IAAF for only 11 months. Thanks to this, Javier Sotomayor could compete at the 2000 Olympics, where he won a silver medal. Three European countries, Norway, Finland and Denmark, criticized this controversial decision. “If you test positive and get suspended, you shouldn’t get a reduced sentence just because you’re a famous track athlete”, said Patrick Sjoberg, a former world record holder in men’s high jump.
2. Myanmar- Sports & Dictatorships
Olympic sport can unify a country like Myanmar -an Asian country which has many ethnic conflicts. However, it -pop. 52 million- has one of the world’s worst Olympic teams. In the last fifty years, three dictatorships have destroyed the Olympic spirit in this land of friendly people. For unknown reasons, Myanmar did not compete at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Canada. In 1980, Sue Khin finished in 47th place in the marathon at the Moscow Summer Games. Four years later, Myanmar -it officially changed its name from Burma in 1989- sent 1 athlete (boxer) to Los Angeles (USA). In 1996, Myanmar was represented by only 3 athletes (athletics and shooting).
At the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, Myanmar finished 27th in the unofficial team standings (behind China, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Jordan, Lebanon, etc). In an interview, Khin Maung Lwin, secretary of the Myanmese Olympic Committee, said “Our NOC has worked in close collaboration with the respective national sports federations to make all the necessary preparations for participation in Doha 2006. We have selected the athletes who showed their best form and achieved top results from that 23rd SEA Games for the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006. As a founding member of the Asian Games Federation in 1949 and the Olympic Council of Asia, we believe the Asian Games is a very important tool for the development of the youth of Asia and for the promotion of international respect, friendly and goodwill…”
3. Albania – Enver Hoxha’s Legacy
What is the reason why Albania does not produce world-class athletes? Albania is well-known for its indifference to sports. It is one of the few European countries that have not Olympic champions. Albania was one of the most unsuccessful countries at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the People’s Republic of China.
Like Mao Tse-tung (Chinese dictator, 1949-1976) and Pol Pot (Cambodian tyrant, 1975-1979), Enver Hoxha did not support friendly relations with the International Olympic Committee. From 1950 to 1985, Enver Hoxha -one of the bloodiest dictators of the 20th century- gained a reputation as an anti-Olympic leader in the world. During his Maoist dictatorship, Albania boycotted seven Olympic Games (Rome ’60, Tokyo ’64, Mexico City ’68, Montreal ’76, Moscow ’80, Los Angeles ’84, Seoul ’88), seven Mediterranean Games (Beirut ’59, Naples ’63, Tunis ’67, Izmir ’71, Algiers ’75, Split ’79, Casablanca ’83) and other international events (Winter Games, World University Games, World championships, European tournaments). In 1985, two weightlifters had defected to Yugoslavia (currently Serbia).
Since 1991, the new government does not have interest in sports and recreation. This European nation is losing its best athletes, who are choosing to live abroad, and not returning to Albania. Many Greeks athletes have Albanian descent: Leonidas Sampani (weightlifting), Sawa Lika (track and field), Pyrro Dimas (weightlifting / Olympic champion, 1992, 1996, 2000), Mirela Manjani (athletics). At the World Championships in 2003, Mirela won a gold medal. Albania has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1959.
4.Taiwan is not Ethiopia
Who was the last world-class athlete of Taiwan? Her name: Chi Cheng (1959-1972). This Olympic ambassador has been called “the Eastern Flying antelope”. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, in October, she, who studied and trained in California, won a bronze medal in the 80 meter low hurdles. Two years later, she broken the world records in the 100m (11,00 seconds) and 200m (22,44 seconds) in July 1970, but she failed in the Olympic Games in 1972. Unexpectedly, she had an injury. Chi Cheng was the favorite to win the gold medal in the 200m. To prepare for the Munich Games, she competed in Asia, Europe and the United States. In 1972, she announced that she was retiring from athletics. In 1971, she was elected “World Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press. In this election, she beat Edson Arantes do Nascimento, one of the greatest athletes of all time. Since 1972, Taiwan continues to celebrate Chi Cheng’s world records.
Unfortunately, Taiwan can not produce world-class athletes.
This Asian country -also known as ROC, Chinese Taipei, Republic of China on Taiwan or Free China- has 10,000 stadiums, 1,850 swimming pools, 1,420 tennis courts, 14,252 sports parks, more than 762 gymnasiums, nearly 9,100 basketball and handball courts, and 87 cycling tracks. With more than double the budget of Jamaica, Ethiopia and North Korea, Taiwan only has won two gold medals (1960-2008). At the 1996 Games, Chinese-Taipei sent 71 athletes and won one silver medal (tennis table).
They have not learnt the experience of South Korea, whose athletes have won 85 gold medals-its best unconventional diplomacy in the world. A good example for a country which does not have full diplomatic relations with 180 nations. Chinese Taipei -one of the developing world’s most successful democracies- is only recognized by 23 countries: Belize, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gambia, Guatemala, Holy See, Haiti, Honduras, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Sao Tome & Principe, Swaziland, Tuvalu.
5. Iceland- A country without Olympic Champions
Iceland – a nation in the North Atlantic near the Arctic Circle- has never won an Olympic medal in the Winter Games. It is one of the oldest Olympic countries in the world (IOC member since 1921). Ranked by the United Nations as one of the richest countries in the world, Iceland has several sports facilities- indoor stadiums, winter Olympic arenas, sports parks and swimming pools. Many people can not believe that one of the richest nations in Europe can not win a winter Olympic medal. Unlike Iceland, Liechtenstein -an area the size of District of Columbia- has won two Olympic titles and 58 World championships. Iceland -it is slightly larger than South Korea- took part in 15 editions of the Winter Games between 1948 and 2006. Glíma, a traditional wrestling, is the national sport of Iceland.
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Alejandro Guevara Onofre: He is a freelance writer. Alejandro is of Italian, African and Peruvian ancestry. He has published more than seventy-five research paper in English, and more than twenty in Spanish, concerning the world issues, olympic sports, countries, and tourism. His next essay is called “The Dictator and Alicia Alonso”. He is an expert on foreign affairs. Alejandro is the first author who has published a world-book encyclopedia in Latin America.
By Alejandro Guevara Onofre