Baseball eliminated from the Olympics

Campaign News | Thursday, 14 July 2005

Cuba blames US

Havana July 13: ACCORDING to Cuba, the owners of the Major League teams are primarily responsible for the decision taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to eliminate baseball from the Olympic program.

Baseball and softball were eliminated from the Olympic program after a secret vote by the IOC on July 8 in Singapore.

"The principle and major accusation that affects our sport is that the best players do not participate in the Olympic Games and those most responsible for that are the owners of the Major League teams, who refuse to release their players for the competition," said Carlos Rodríguez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation.

The Major Leagues organization, whose competition schedule lasts from April through October, has always refused to allow its players to take part in the Olympic Games, a decision that affects not just the United States but also countries such as Japan, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Talking to Granma International, Rodríguez described the decision as "very sad because it cheats millions of young people who practice and love this sport."

The official recalled that baseball is the national sport in Cuba: "It’s part of our culture and our identity," and for this reason it will be maintained as a "prioritized discipline and we will continue to work with the same level of enthusiasm in order to continue developing our sport."

However, Rodríguez described the decision as a "harsh blow" for baseball and made this prediction: "I think that apart from in Cuba, the United States and Japan where baseball is very strong, in many other countries I’m afraid that popularity in the sport will wane because the Olympic Committees will cease to support it after its elimination from the Olympic program."

For his part, Industrialies’ first baseman Alexander Mayeta described the decision as "harsh and unjust", adding: "For a Cuban baseball player, the greatest honor is to be an Olympic champion."

Mayeta, who hit 14 homeruns and held a 330 average in the last Cuban series, added: "Ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of one day playing for my country in the Olympic Games. I’m 28 years old now and now I’m going to train even harder to be a part of the team for the 2008 Games. It’s an incredibly important gold medal, and Cuba cannot lose."

Baseball became an Olympic sport in Barcelona in 1992, where Cuba won the first gold medal for the sport. Cuba also triumphed in Atlanta in 1996 and in Athens 2004, whilst in 2000, the island won the silver after losing in the final against long-time rivals, the United States.

At the IOC meeting in Singapore on July 8, a secret vote was taken on each one of the 28 sports included in the Olympic program and baseball and softball did not obtain the majority vote needed to remain. The other 26 sports were approved.

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