Antonio Castro, son of long-time former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, told AFP on Friday that his battle to get baseball and softball restored to the Olympic Games sport roster came from “deep inside me and my soul.”
Antonio Castro, who ironically became an orthopaedic surgeon after his nascent baseball career was cut short by a knee injury, added it was crucial to Cuba for the sports to regain their places after being ousted from the 2012 Games.
Castro, vice-president of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) since 2009, is in Buenos Aires to present the case for the reinclusion of baseball/softball to the 103 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on Sunday.
They face stiff opposition from wrestling, which was dropped from the roster in February but has fought back strongly, and squash, who have campaigned well and are having their third attempt at getting on to the Olympic programme.
“This desire for the campaign to get the sports restored comes from deep inside me and my soul,” he said.
“Baseball is obviously my first love as a sport but I have become convinced about softball too as it ensures gender equality. Now I have a good feeling for both.”
Castro, the Cuban team doctor at last year’s Olympics, said getting back in to the Olympics would mean the world to the Cuban people.
“Baseball in Cuba is the pinnacle of the the sporting pyramid, it is part of the social foundation with all the people playing as a team.
“For the social system sport is very important.”
Castro, one of nine children fathered by Fidel, said that while his name brought him recognition and made conversation easier with IOC members this was his own personal project.
“This is my own work,” he said.
“I’m a doctor. I started to work in the Olympics from the lowest level, in the 2000 Olympics I was a doctor on the Cuban medical team, and I have gradually raised my image. My name for sure is a weight on my shoulders.”
Castro, who in the two subsequent Olympics was then the baseball team doctor, said that he believed the joint bid had re-established itself in terms of being recognised by the IOC as a serious contender and was growing into a more global sport.
“I think yes they believe that because in St Petersburg (Russia) in late May we were one of the three sports to make the shortlist,” he said.
“However, even if we don’t make it on Sunday the world will not end for us. We will continue working because it is about globalising the sport and convincing people that it is a game worth playing.
“There are 65 million people playing it round the world, there are 140 federations and 4 million junior leagues. The last world baseball championships was broadcast in over 200 countries.”
Castro, whose father stepped down after five decades as leader of the Communist regime in 2006 because of ill health and his uncle Raul replaced him, said it had been a rewarding experience for him.
“I enjoyed the campaign. It is voluntary work and is to do with my love and my strong feelings for the sport. There is a lot of energy within me to see this through.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]