From the moment they get off the plane up to the ceremonies held at the presidential house, the cheers, the smiles, the hugs, the kisses, the laughs and all the joy they've produced is displayed in front of them.
Colombian society in general fills with pride every time an athlete has success, reaches victory or has an overall good performance in international competitions. Likewise, various political sectors try to use in order to grasp certain personal gain; after all, the relationship between sports and politics is not something new.
But behind this scenery an uncomfortable truth exists, one that has reached exposure thanks to alternative news outlets in Colombia and social networks. An uncomfortable truth that precisely affects and involves those politicians who are the first ones at sports events, who post their picture with the successful athletes, who try very hard to be associated with them and who are the first ones to go on national TV congratulating them.
The case of Oscar Figueroa -gold medalist at the Rio Olympics for weightlifting- is a recent example. He himself, right after winning the gold medal, while interviewed for a major Colombian TV network, called for the president to honor his word in funding the construction of the High Performance Centre that he had promised back in the 2012 London Olympics when Figueroa had reached silver medal.
“Athletes should not be suffering traumatisms each time the Federation suffers because of corrupt directives” stated Figueroa who doesn’t want current and future generations of athletes to be affected by the lack of institutional support and corruption.
The prioritizing of certain political figures over athletes themselves is also a topic of controversy in recent days. On the one hand, through his twitter account, Fernando Gaviria, a track cycling athlete, denounced that due to negligence by the Colombian Olympic Committee, he and his team where kept waiting over 14 hours at the airport and once arrived to Rio, did not get any reception by the Colombian Committee, he ended up getting lost in Rio.
This treatment sets a contrast with the one given to Dilan Toro, Governor of Valle, who is a personal friend and political ally of Clara Roldan, director of Coldeportes (national government department of sports) and who granted her and her family privileged access with the Colombian delegation to the Olympics. So while this politician gets special treatment, the athletes who actually are to compete are relegated by the institution.
A series of questions and speculations have risen on regards of the Colombian women's soccer team, which for this edition of the Olympics did not count with star player Daniela Montoya, who a year ago spoke out and denounced the Colombian Soccer Federation for the lack of economic support to the team.
The Federation told them that if they passed to the Round of the 16 phase of the 2015 Women´s World Cup held in Canada, they would each get a bonus of 10 million COP (A little more than 3000 dollars). They passed on to the Round of the 16 phase but did not ever receive the bonus, which is not even that much money compared to the money made by the Federation through sponsorships.
Take into account that for a country that doesn’t have a women’s national soccer league, just qualifying to the world cup is an incredible effort and even more passing to the Round of 16 phase. There was a big media spectacle on them and their effort, but no one at that moment seemed to care that these athletes lived off their own personal jobs rather than sport.
Daniela Montoya, who was a main player of the team, was not integrated to the team for the 2016 Olympics despite being at her top game; it all points to this being the form in which the Colombian Soccer Federation responds to those athletes who speak out against corruption and the lack of support.
Colombia is a country that is amazingly rich in natural resources and human capacity, but we have a political system that is profoundly corrupt, and in which the governing elite do as they please with people's lives and future. It’s incredible how such a rich country has starving people, how basic things such as education and health are a privilege that only few acquire.
This way of governing can be seen in all aspects of public affairs, including sports. Yuberjen Martínez, who received a silver medal for boxing at Rio Olympics cried on national TV when the journalist told him that due to his effort, the Housing Ministry had approved for his family to finally have a house. Something which he, his family and all Colombians deserve no matter who they are; one shouldn’t have to become an Olympic medalist to finally get some public assistance. He got a roof for his family, let’s hope the government honors their word on that, unlike the case of Oscar Figueroa and the women´s national soccer team who where lied to.
The State prefers to finance military expenses, send youth to war, obligatory military service instead of financing education, art and sports. But in a very hypocritical way, they try to have political gains through the athlete´s victories and receive them as national heroes only once they have by themselves reached success.
The project of the construction of a New Colombia consists of getting rid of those forms of governing the country, in which Colombian society is just an asset of the governing elite they can play around with to their own interests.
The New Colombia is the political project of a country in which all our national wealth is used to benefit the entire population, for people to reach their human realization through education, arts and sports, for people to have opportunities and their basic life existence guaranteed; a country in which governing will no longer be based on corruption, individual and petty interests, but on the interests of all citizens.