Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — After being delighted by the opening ceremony of the London Olympics — a show where technology was at long last placed in the service of more conceptual art rather than for the creation mere special effects — the games achieved moments of exquisite lyricism.

However as the traditional competitions began, with these came my frustrations – because in sports, inexorably, someone wins and another one loses.

On the first day, a Moroccan boxer, sure of victory, was awaiting the judges’ ruling with a radiant expression. But when they announced their decision, the referee lifted up the arm of his opponent. At that moment the Moroccan’s face turned pale, and despite him shaking hands with his rival and hugging the coaches, he was crying.

I couldn’t help but recall the last decisive soccer match between Italy and Spain in the recent European Championship. Due to frivolous inertia I had sided with those who wanted Spain to win, but when I witnessed the dejection of the Italians in their seemingly endless humiliation, I was convinced that no defeat is enjoyable to me.

I then felt like the Cuban poet Angel Escobar when he said: “I am a fetus / just born / they say that I have Down’s syndrome… (…) they didn’t choose me, / they pushed me away / they drove me away…”

In my childhood, I remember that when we played games I didn’t prove myself to be as skilled as other girls and I never won, which made me unhappy. By not hiding my disappointment, they reproached me saying that “I didn’t know how to lose.”

Many years have now gone by but I fear that I still haven’t learned how to lose. But how do you learn such a difficult lesson in humility when society only rewards, compliments and benefits the winners? If full maturity is shown by casually accepting loss, why aren’t there ever any prizes for losers?

The term “loser,” so over-used, is pronounced with genuine contempt. Meanwhile, “success” is defined by the world and quatified by society itself; its implacable laws have no room for humility (or piety), nor is there a human space in sports for those who do not demonstrate their temporary superiority in a competition in which the quest for glory (no matter how ephemeral and unpredictable it might be) is the only goal…and the only reward.

The unfortunate incident at the Beijing Olympics involving a Cuban taekwondo athlete who, upset by a decision, hit the referee in the face, or the sequence that has been passed from computer to computer where we saw the athlete Dayron Robles pushing his Chinese opponent with his arm, show how much desperation there is behind in each competition.

These show the tragedy that awaits the loser if they don’t time shake off in time their virtual defeat, which only has the advantage of silence and sinking into oblivion, because history is of course always written by the victors.

Needless to say, this same anxiety is the cause of unbridled corruption in sports, with doped up athletes and matches being “fixed.”

No matter how much sports is defined as good entertainment, no matter how much we emphasize the “friendly” character of the matches, I’ve seen dramas that lurk behind the moment in which one athlete wins or loses, instances that can ruin their entire lives.
I’m glad I’m not an athlete and have never had the responsibility for the joy or sorrow of an entire country on my shoulders.

I would have also preferred that this event on which millions of dollars are spent (plus all the resources invested in training each of the athletes involved) — as was evidenced in the breathtaking opening ceremony — was truly an event of global happiness.

Yet this is something impossible if there are only partial victories, medals statistics and rigid comparisons in which many appear unfavorably, no matter how much dignity they display when shaking hands with the winners and holding back their tears.

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