SEARCH 2000 Games

Thursday, September 14, 2000

Miranda still has hope

 SYDNEY -- Arturo Miranda should be getting ready for the biggest competition of his life.

 Instead, the Edmonton diver finds himself sleeping on a couch in a coach's condo, deprived of pool time, caught in the middle of a political tug of war that looks like it is going to rip apart his Olympic dream.

 A native of Cuba, but now a Canadian citizen, Miranda's participation in the Games has been blocked by the Cubans. They are invoking an International Olympic Committe rule which says an ex-national must be a citizen of his new country for three years before he can compete for his adopted country.

 Miranda became a Canadian citizen only last year, but because he hadn't compete for Cuba since 1991 and had since left that country legally, Canadian officials were confident he would be allowed to compete for Canada.

 "When I found out about the decision, I was a little shocked they weren't going to let me dive," said Miranda Thursday. He stood in the International Zone of the Olympic Village, ironically just outside where the Cubans are housed. A huge Cuban flag, which hung from a balcony, fluttered ever so slowly in the breeze as he spoke.

 "I did everything by the book. I legally left the country. My relations (with Cuba) are good, so I don't understand."

 Miranda, 29 and likely looking at his only chance to participate in the Olympic Games, dove for Cuba in the 1991 Pan-American Games. He made the 1992 Olympic team, but it did not compete because the Bubans didn't have the money to send the team.

 He retired after that and worked in the tourism industry. He met a Canadian girl, was married (they've since split up) and moved to Canada in 1995.

 Miranda has exhausted all the official avenues open to him and the Canadian Olympic Association to appeal the Cubans' position. Canada took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and though the international tribunal was sensitive to his plight, the appeal was dismissed Wednesday.

 All that is left now is to appeal to the Cubans' sense of what's right. Another overture will be made today with a final decision on Miranda's fate by Thursday night.

 Given they have twice rejected appeals to allow Miranda to compete, it's unlikely they'll change their minds now. The Cuban position is consistent: they don't allow former Cuban citizens to compete if they can prevent it, a policy designed to discourage defections.

 "We had a strong case, but not strong enough," said Canadian diving team head coach Mitch Geller. "The CAS was very sympathetic to the case, as was the IOC. They regret he can't compete.

 "We understand the Cubans' position. They don't want to encourage athletic mercenary activity with their athletes going to another country and profiting from the training they got in Cuba.

 "This is not the case. He emigrated legally. He wasn't an athlete there for three years before he left the country. We thought they had relinquished their interest in the benefits of his athletic prowess. We can understand them saying we're not going to support you if you defect, but this has been above board the whole time.

 "I'm not a defector. I just want to dive," said Miranda, who finally got back in the pool Wednesday after not training for a week. "I have to train. I have to get ready for the challenge. My only concern is if I get to dive, I can't perform the way I can. I hope everything gets resolved."

 Despite what's happened, Miranda said he doesn't hold any ill feelings towards the country of his birth.

 "Absolutely not," he said. "My country is my country. It's where I was born. All my family is down there."

 Though it doesn't look good, Miranda hasn't given up hope.

 "My dream is not going to die," he said, "Until I am on that plane back to Canada."