Saturday, August 16, 2003

THE WAY WE WERE (in East Germany?)
August 16, 2003

In his search of any possible credit to restore his image, the Chavez administration is not afraid to use old recipes that were once useful under different skies.

These past two weeks the Dominican Republic hosted the Pan-American games. If these games do not hold the attention of the world, being basically a competition between many second line US athletes and Cuba first line ones, they still are important for the rest of South America where the medal repartition that really means something are the bronze an silver. I do not mean this to belittle the games, but the fun part is to see all the silver medals that go to countries that otherwise would be absent in an world class event.

Venezuela is one of these countries that do well there, while in the Olympics we might leave without a single bronze medal. It does happen that Venezuela is a minor power in the Pan-American Games where it fights for a position between 6 and 10, our main rivals being Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. This makes the competition fun to watch.

Last night, in one of those moments that never fail to show up in such games, the Venezuelan volley ball team did the Cinderella thing, beating 2 days ago favorite Brazil to go on to the final and beat defending champion Cuba, who earned its berth by previously beating the US. An a clear victory at that, 3 to 0. A cheap feel good moment that I could not miss, even if volley ball is far from being a favorite of mine.

So far so good. But as soon as the victory was acquired, the state TV who holds the retransmission rights, linked the team captain with Chavez over a cell phone. Chavez, by the way, being in Paraguay. Then the phone was passed to one of the manager of the team that was even more profuse in thanking of Chavez for everything. That is, had Chavez not being president probably the team would not have had even the plane tickets to go to Santo Domingo.

In a sycophantic country where getting a sport dollar from politicians is a rather hard task, I can go along with these people defending their job and in the emotion of the moment becoming more chavista than Chavez. But what came later was worthy of any of the propaganda based regimes that used to dot some parts of the world, when sports victory were supposed to compensate for bread lines. A “cadena” was suddenly called and all of Venezuela networks had to show the corny medal ceremony from beginning to end. Trust me, it is way longer and silly than the mere flag rising we see in the Olympics, and the feel good effect is eventually lost, even as the National anthem comes on in a sort of unexpected anti-climax. There is a reason why normal TV broadcast shows only the anthem and flag part. At least our willful and deserving volley team did not have to watch the manipulation.

With a recall election looming, all is fair I suppose to mark a point.

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