Commercialization of Olympic Games wins again

• Havana, Río de Janeiro, Istanbul and Leipzig ruled out as potential venues for the 2012 Games

• London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris still in the race


HAVANA (24 May 2004) -- The excessive commercialization of sports determined the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in ruling out Havana as the venue for the 2012 Games, according to José Ramón Fernández, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee.

"Unfortunately, Havana cannot aspire to host the 2012 Games," Fernández said in a telephone interview with Granma International.

Other cities ruled out include Río de Janeiro, Istanbul and Leipzig, while London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris are still in the race.

"Cuba believes that the determining factors for being selected to host the Olympic Games should be sporting merit, organizational capacity and popular support," Fernández added.

The IOC chose the cities of the richest countries as a way of showing that the priority is "excessive commercialization and other elements of wealth."

Fernández, who is also a Cuban vice president, commented, "We will continue struggling to one day achieve our aspiration of hosting the Olympics."

The "noble ideal of sports" is manifested through achievement, and above all, in "sports as a purely recreational activity within everyone's reach," he noted.

A February survey of Havana residents by a British firm contracted by the IOC revealed that 90.3 per cent support the application to organize the 2012 Games, Fernández said.

Previously, Fernández had affirmed that 12 Cuban government agencies were supporting the country's candidacy. He had explained that the idea was to reduce spending to a minimum, to repair existing sports facilities and to construct housing for the Olympic Village which would afterwards be directed to meet the population's housing needs.

Cuba first presented itself as a candidate to host the Olympics during the nominations for the 2008 Games, which Beijing won.

Disappointment in Brazil, too

Brazilian sports leaders also expressed surprise and disappointment after Río de Janeiro was left out of the competition to host the 2012 Olympics, according to the AP.

"It was a surprising and disappointing decision, mainly because we had a great project," said Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympics Committee, in a statement reported by the AP.

Brazilian officials had expected otherwise. Río will become the first South American city to receive the Olympic torch next month. It will host the 2007 Pan-American Games, but many thought that the city would be among the favourites for the Olympic Games because it is also aspiring to host the soccer World Cup in 2014.

The pre-selection of the IOC's executive board was based on a report of the facilities and technical capacity of the nine cities that entered the competition.

A 14-month bidding process now starts before a plenary assembly of the IOC announces the winning city at a meeting in Singapore in July 2005. However, IOC President Rogge announced that the IOC leadership could make a subsequent cut in May 2005 if the evaluation committee finds "serious deficiencies" among one of the five finalists.

Special for Granma International

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