Sour Grapes in Havana as Exiles Outshine Cuba's Olympic Team
The Associated Press
by FRANCES MARTEL19 Aug 20166
As the Olympics fortnight comes to a close, Cuban government
propagandists are beginning to cope with the outstanding success of
Cuban exile athletes competing under another flag, and often actively
disassociating from the communist regime.
Cuban-born athletes and members of the Cuban diaspora born abroad have
begun to vex the communist Castro government, as primetime television
smears the athletes as less worthy of their ethnic identity. Most
notably is the derisive commentary of Randy Alonso Falcón, host of the
primetime commentary show Mesa Redonda, who dismissed Cuban-Spanish
runner Orlando Ortega Echeverría as an "ex-Cuban" for winning his silver
media for Spain.
"The case of ex-Cuban Orlando Ortega and other cases of athletes have
added to the controversy [at the Olympics]," Alonso claims, adding that
"the growing influence of money" has clearly "damaged" the sports world.
He does not elaborate on what it means to be an "ex-Cuban," or who with
Cuban roots living abroad qualifies, but a lack of loyalty to the Cuban
Communist Party may qualify someone to be stripped of their ethnic
identity by the television host.
Cuban athletes have surfaced to represent almost every corner of the
globe during this year's Olympics, and many are openly hostile to Cuba.
Ortega was among them, apparently stroking the ire of propagandist
Alonso after rejecting a Cuban flag after winning a silver medal in the
Men's 110M hurdles event. "They gave me a Cuban flag, but I wanted the
Spanish one," he told reporters. "When I get home I'm going to eat a
Speaking to reporters following his victory, which broke a long drought
in track and field medals for the European nation, he repeatedly
emphasized the value of his victory for Spain. "I want to thank Spain
for trusting in me," he said. "There will be many more victories for
Spain, for my family, for everyone who trusted in me," he added, notably
leaving out the country of his birth.
Joining him in rejecting the potential that his victory would be used to
bolster the image of the Cuban government was Yasmani Copello, a runner
who secured the bronze medal in the 400M hurdles event. "This medal is
for me and my new country," the young Cuban-Turk told reporters. "I am
very grateful to be Turkish…. I don't think about Cuba."
In an interview, Lorenzo Sotomayor, a newly-minted Azeri, echoed this
sentiment. "If I were still in Cuba, I would not have come to the
Olympic Games. I would be in the streets 'struggling' to earn a
livelihood and feed my two children." Sotomayor at press time has
guaranteed Azerbaijan a place in the boxing superlightweight division
semi-finals after defeating Yasnier Toledo, representing the Cuban
The list of Cubans representing nations far from home goes on. On team
Italy, Osmany Juantorena will play in the men's volleyball semifinals
against the United States. The Italian women's relay race will feature
Cuban-born Libania Grenot. And even Qatar boasts a Cuban athlete: Rafael
Da Costa Capote, a member of their handball team.
The Cuban government has not openly referred to any of these athletes
with hostility, only openly attacking Ortega — who rejected the Cuban
flag — and Cuban-American athletes. Ciber Cuba put together a list of
Cuban athletes competing abroad, but left out all Cubans competing for
the United States.
The list of Cuban-American athletes competing in Olympic history is a
long one, and this year's includes big names like gymnast Danell Leyva,
judoka Angelica Delgado, and arguably the most talked-about athlete of
the Games, swimming champion Ryan Lochte.
The Cuban state newspaper Granma has as of press time not weighed in on
Lochte's ongoing saga in Rio de Janeiro, which has culminated in
Brazilian police forcing his teammate to hand over $11,000 after four
American swimmers were corralled at gunpoint at a gas station following
a drunken exchange with employees there. It has referred to the
Cárdenas-born Leyva, however, implying that his silver medal in the
men's parallel bars event was unmerited.
A column on the state-run site Ciber Cuba titled "Judge's Blindness
Hurts Cuban Gymnast Manrique Larduet" argues Leyva's parallel bars
routine "showed a light imbalance in the stand above the bar" and
featured "a dismount with no height and barely any complexity."
Larduet, the Cuban gymnast, placed fifth, but Cuba's state media claims
his routine "flew high like no one else."
"The judges saw nothing," the column laments, "they saw what they wanted
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