Clearly, someone convinced the autocrat that there would be
a few medals, more than the country had ever obtained in its Olympic history. But it
was not to be, as Venezuela obtained a single bronze medal in Taekwondo, one
medal less than in Athens, despite twice as many athletes.
Sports authorities had convinced Chavez that Venezuela would
obtain at least five medals and he made quite a show of it, meeting with the
Olympic athletes twice before their departure and talking about it in his
Sunday variety show Alo Presidente.
Today, Chavez is calling those that claim Venezuela failed in Beijing,
pro-Yankees and is suggesting the athletes had a brilliant Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the President of the
Venezuelan Olympic Committee is saying that Venezuela did not meet its goals
because refereeing went against the country. The only success, besides the medal,
according to this person was that we sent 109 athletes to the games, more than
twice the number Venezuela had ever sent to the Games.This is a silly way to look at it as the IOC has been trying to relax requirements so that more countries participate and Venezuela had 39 delegates in team sports like volleyball and softball.
The truth is that Venezuela should have done better if only
because in exchange for oil, Cuba has been sending trainers to this country for
eight years. Given the success of the Cuban in international sports, this
should have had some minimal impact, which should have been visible in Beijing.
I suspect that the bureaucratic nature of Venezuelan sports
is what hinders its development. In fact, one of the delegates to the Olympics told Chavez today that
sports had too many managers. This is nothing new, it was happening before
Chavez came to power. What is new, is that Chavez’ profound dislike for the
public universities, has distanced the sporting structure of the country from
its most natural place to harvest good athletes. Not only that, but these same
universities have been strapped for money ever since Chavez came to power.
Perhaps sports officials in Venezuela should look critically
at where Venezuela excels and ask why. They may not like the answer, but it is
the truth: Success these days comes wherever the private sector lends a strong
hand, but I am sure Chavez will not like that answer. Venezuela’s success in
baseball, soccer, tennis and Taekwondo all originates in the private sector.
Taekwondo is a very interesting case; the country has won
two medals in the last two Olympics and two in the Barcelona Olympics when it
was an exhibition sport. Taekwondo began as a martial arts practice, taught at
private academies around the country and when the sport became Olympic one,
Venezuelan women had world quality status in it (I have yet to find an
explanation why it was the woman who took to the sport) As simple as that.
The mystery is why the revolution ahs not been successful at
sports. They have plowed some extra money and lots of new trainers to it. Why
hasn’t it worked? You may argue inefficiency, mismanagement and the like, but
there should have been an improvement even if only qualitative. But it is not
there. In the end it may be like Chavez’ housing program, where despite the announcements,
money and projects, the Chavez Government has been unable to coordinate
building more housing.
In fact, you would think that the whole patriotic, socialist
speech should have generated more enthusiasm for sports. But maybe the money is
just being spent in the wrong places. A revolution that does not want anyone to
excel may be the wrong drive for Olympic success.
So, we get more revolutionary propaganda, than revolutionary
gold. That seems to be the hallmark of the revolution.