"These seem to be the Olympics of nationalized Cubans nationalized by other countries," wrote a DIARIO DE CUBA collaborator a few days ago before the closing of the Olympic Games in Río. These were another Games at which the medal forecast for the Cuban contingent was not achieved.
The victories of Cuba-born athletes on other countries' teams, compounded by the failure to meet Cuba's official goals, spurred a spokesman for the regime to brand Olympic runner Orlando Ortega an "ex-Cuban." Certain circles were outraged that Ortega embraced the Spanish flag to celebrate his victory, and it almost seemed that he was about to recite Bonifacio Byrne's best-known poem about his dilemma of being torn between two flags.
What lurks behind all this patriotic posturing is alarm at a set of dangerous images: wrapped in the flag of Spain, or Turkey, or Azerbaijan, or Italy, Cuba-born medalists belie the official argument that those who emigrate from Cuba always do so for economic reasons, and do not have any political disputes with the regime.
Resolved to realize their full potential, these medalists born in Cuba were forced to make a political decision. Now they represent other flags, wrapping themselves in them when they emerge victorious. They compete for their adopted countries because the obtuseness of the Island's authorities impelled them to become political emigrants.
Other societies do not find it outrageous or strange that nationalized athletes compete for their countries of origin. They even promote it. In the case of Cuba this becomes highly problematic, a matter of State. However, the problem has more to do with the political authorities than the athletes.
The authorities will have to learn to respect the athletes' freedom and capacities, or they will be forced to increasingly resort to the lowly civil registry tactic of snubbing them as ex-Cubans, a sour-grapes reaction that will not wrest medals from Olympic champions like Orlando Ortega, Yasmani Copello, Lorenzo Sotomayor, Osmany Juantorena, Frank Chamizo and others who, under their respective flags, arise in the future.