Cuba’s Olympic Glory Dining

Osmel Almaguer

Lazaro Borges. Photo:

They say that only to participate in an Olympic Games is in itself tremendous of glory for any athlete. Winning a medal, then, must be something like sitting at the table with Olympian gods. However, for Cuban athletes there’s an equivalent privilege that few have ever experienced: the right to the “Olympic Dining Room.”

In it they serve the same food as in the others, at least in terms of a balanced diet with specific amounts of calories, protein and vitamins. Only two subtle differences make it more desirable: 1) the nutritional values are much higher than in the common INDER (the Cuban sports association) dining rooms, and 2) while in other cafeterias the protein consists of one or two eggs or ground meat, etc., in the Olympic Dining food is delicious (prime steak, for example) and better cooked.

Entry is allowed only to the athletic elite, those who have chances at medals at the highest level. Baseball players (although it’s possible that with their recent performances, their God-like status may be in peril), Dayron Robles (despite the altercation that sounded so suspicious I still can’t believe it), the women’s volleyball team (at least when they’re on a winning streak), and a host of other world-class figures, though in recent times their number has been dwindling.

In fact, with 2011 being a year of world championships, we only managed to win two titles – in boxing…and at the end of the season. Did the cooks in the Olympic Dining only cook for these two privileged sports gods? Are they still serving courses to athletes like Yargelis Savigne, who in several competitions has done nothing but disappoint a people who expected so much from her?

What then are the true gauges for determining which athlete can eat better? And who makes those decisions? I’d like to see the reasoning process of those people, because I firmly believe that one of the many mistakes being made — which are increasingly undermining our athletic showing — is the blindness with respect to the prospects of our athletes.

To give one example, there’s Lazaro Borges, a Cuban pole-vaulter on the track team. He recently won an unexpected silver medal at the World Championships, though he’s over 25. He’s one of those athletes who matures a little later. I can’t be completely sure, but I imagine that only now is he being permitted into the Olympic Dining Room.

No one saw his potential? He couldn’t be given the attention to allow him to develop earlier and more fully. Ah, look how great it is that he’s benefitting from his athletic performance now, after he rose to the occasion in under difficult conditions, because previously he didn’t even have his own pole for vaulting.

Now the officialdom proclaims that his quality is a result of the Cuban sports program, which is fair and even-handed with all of its athletes.

We have to ask ourselves: How it is that our second string athletes spend so much time and energy only to make it to the world semi-finals? The problem is that we’re giving the top ones advantages so they’ll always remain on top while condemning the second tier athletes to never going on to Olympic glory.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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