Beginning November 14, the city will play host to the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games, making Mexico a four-time host of the competition. OSCAR SÁNCHEZ SERRA
Central America and the Caribbean are partying in the Mexican city of Veracruz. With the lighting of the flame on November 14, to mark the start of the twenty-second edition of the Games, the oldest regional games of the modern era, the fraternal struggle to be the fastest, strongest and highest in more than 40 sports will begin.
Mexico hosts this multi-sport event for the fourth time, having hosted the first edition in 1926, followed by those of 1954 and 1990. On this occasion, the host country is represented by 752 athletes, imbued with the potential that comes from being the host country and the development they have witnessed in recent years, creating high hopes of making history, and aiming to crown the top of the medals table when the flame is put out on the 30th.
This would involve ousting the biggest sports power in the region, Cuba, who with 543 athletes is committed to maintaining its seat of honour, which has not been lost since the first time it rose to the top, in the now distant 1970 edition in Panama.
This rivalry will colour every date in the competition calendar. Mexico won more gold medals than any other country that participated in the jousts of San Salvador in 2002 and the last games in Mayagüez in 2010, both of which took place without the participation of Cuba, as the team was not guaranteed the minimal conditions as stipulated in the regulations of the International Olympic Movement.
Nor can the Venezuelan and Colombian teams be dismissed, and will be taken into account by the leading figures in the race for the seat of honour. The first arrived with 546 aspiring athletes and the second with 416, among whom are seven London 2012 Olympic medal winners.
Venezuela demonstrated a tenacious effort to remain at top of the medals table in Mayagüez. Four years ago, the country came in second with 116 gold medals, only 11 fewer than Mexico. Colombia also surpassed a hundred victories in the previous games, with 104 gold medals.
While the Central American and Caribbean Games do not have the same pedigree as the Pan American Games let alone the Olympics, they will nevertheless represent a major challenge for the Cuban delegation. If you consider that the team is arriving in the city after an eight year absence from this Central American and Caribbean athletic environment, the handicap appears even greater.
Of the 543 Cuban athletes in Veracruz, 467 are competing for the first time in this event, with the responsibility of maintaining the glory of the major figures of Cuban sports history, who stood out at the Central American and Caribbean Games. If we add to this that the delegation starts with the disadvantage of not having participated in 108 of the medal categories (almost 25 per cent of the competitive events), you can appreciate the magnitude of the feat facing these young gladiators.
Athletics, boxing, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, karate, shooting, canoeing, rowing and weightlifting are some of the sports where the Cubans have their best chances, although in basketball (especially the women), volleyball (in this case the men), baseball, the two handball teams and field hockey, the Cubans have an equal chance of reaching the highest podium. The same applies to certain individuals in fencing, cycling and sailing.
Whatever the results, Cuba has announced that its principal sporting objective is to continue to contribute to this, the main sports event in the region, and with that resolve, the Island has brought together its best athletes, prioritizing these games over other important commitments.
As such, Cuba has also expressed that with regards to its aspirations, there is nothing left but to return to the top.
In defence of Cuba’s honour and flag
“… at this historical site, the Cuban delegation made known its motto: In Veracruz with dignity, discipline and patriotism, we will return victorious”
Havana (Oct. 28) – Mijain López, twice Olympic champion and five times world champion, a symbol of pride for Cuba and his hometown of La Herradura in Pinar de Rio, once again felt the emotion of reciving a gold medal, when, this Tuesday morning October 28, he became the flag bearer for Cuba’s delegation to the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games to be held in Veracruz, Mexico, November 14-30.
True to the words of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, “Honour is worth more than life itself,” the Cuban wrestler was handed the national flag to wave at the base of the monument to Jose Marti in Revolution Square, Havana, by Miguel Diaz-Canel, member of the Political Bureau and first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, before members of the Cuban delegation to the regional comeptition. López was accompanied by Olympianp and World judo champion, Idalys Ortiz, and world silver medalist in the pole vault, Yarisley Silva.
Beforehand, Glenhys Hernández, World and Pan-American taekwondo champion, read the delegation’s statement of commitment, in which the Cuban athletes swore to compete with dignity and in accordance with the principles of the country, respecting their opponent as part of fair play. Rosniel Iglesias and Yulieski Gourriel laid a wreath at the Marti Memorial on behalf of the athletes.
Precisely on the day that the Hero of Yaguajay, Commander Camilo Cienfuegos, is remembered, the Cuban champions brought his memory to life. Camilo was a lover of sports and he is present in each of the athletes who will defend their country, at each jump, run and effort to reach their goals.
Cuba held the send off for its athletes on the very same day that the world will once again tell the United States to put an end to its genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade of the small country. For the 23rd time, the international community demanded an end to this injustice and once again sport, that ambassador par excellence of the best traditions and principles of the Cuban people, will climb this and other mountains in order to reach the very top of this peaceful competition between the youth of our region.
Olga Lidia Tapia Iglesias, member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party, José R. Fernández Alvarez, advisor to the President of the Councils of State and Ministers and president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, Teresa Amarelle Boué, General Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women, Antonio Becali Garrido, president of INDER and the Decorated Hero of the Republic of Cuba, Fernando González Llort, one of the five antiterrorists unjustly imprisioned in the United States, shared this proud moment with the Cuban sport stars.
Before them at this historical site, the Cuban delegation made known its motto: In Veracruz with dignity, discipline and patriotism, we will return victorious.