Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympic Fever in Cuba

With the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games having officially launched on Friday, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the Olympic fever of watching newscasts and poring over articles celebrating triumphs and sympathizing with defeats.  As a Canadian, this is easy to understand as we are still winding down from the feeling of patriotism and excitement that was a national staple for the 2012 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.  But what about those other countries?  What about those countries that did not host the Games a couple years back? What about those countries that have never hosted the Games?  Are they still as enthusiastic about the whole process and the chance of competing (and winning) on the world stage?

Cuba definitely is. 

The Olympic Committee of Cuba or Comité Olímpico Cubano for those of you that speak Spanish, was formed in 1926 and recognized by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in 1954.  Cuba first participated in the Paris Olympic Games in 1990.  They brought home two medals in total; one silver and one gold.   Since their first showing on the international stage, Cuba has brought home almost 200 hundred medals, most of which have been gold. 

At the Summer Games, Cuba is a dominant power in events such as boxing in which they have 32 gold medals and 19 and 12 silver and bronze medals respectively.  They are also regular contenders in sports such as track & field, wrestling and judo.

New to their list of Olympic successes however is baseball.  Baseball has been a symbol of pride for the people since the 19th century, and enjoys immense popularity with the locals second only to their love of amateur boxing.  Baseball however, though unofficially a part of the Games in 1904, was not accepted as an official Olympic sport until 1992.  It was then that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted it medal status, allowing qualifying teams to compete in an eight team tournament that consisted of a round robin, semi-finals and finals. All players were required to be amateurs until the 2000 Sydney Summer Games which was first to allow professional players.

Since it became an Olympic event, the Cuban team has risen to the top of the sport and become a force to be reckoned with.  With the event only having been held five times, Cuba has medaled each and every year with gold finishes in 1992, 1996 and 2004, and silver finishes in 2000 and 2008.

Baseball is a great pastime for the people of Cuba.  You can always find a pick-up game going on in the streets, junior leagues competing at the local park, and at least a handful of locals willing to debate the greatest players, athletic feats of greatness and memorable moments.

Interested in playing with Cuban baseball players on your next trip to Cuba?  They’d be happy to have you.  Contact International Career Studies to find out more.    

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