Sports in Cuba are generally under the direction of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation. They are almost a national obsession, and sports figures are treated as national heroes. Baseball is the national sport and is widely played throughout the country, with leagues organized at national and provincial scales. Fidel Castro himself has been passionately attracted to the sport since his youth. Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 19th century, and until 1959 the island provided the major league clubs of the United States with a constant supply of quality players, a tradition revived with the defection, over the years, of many of the country’s top baseball stars, such as Danys Baez and the brothers Orlando and Livan Hernandez. Cuban baseball teams have consistently captured gold medals in the Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games.
In various other international competitions, Cubans have also competed strongly with—and often outperformed—teams from every American country. At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, for example, Cuban athletes won 29 medals. Eliecer Urrutía set a world mark in the triple jump in 1997, and Javier Sotomayor posted world records in the high jump in 1988 and 1993. Female athletes have also been outstanding in Cuba, with world-class teams in track and field as well as in volleyball. The heavyweight boxer Teófilo Stevenson is representative of another field in which Cubans have consistently excelled. Sport fishing, especially for blue marlin, has a long tradition, Ernest Hemingway being one of the enthusiastic participants.
More recently, successful international competitions in sailing, yachting, and powerboat racing have taken place in Cuba. The government provides opportunities for most Cubans to participate in sports and recreational programs.
Cuba celebrates Carnival in late July, most flamboyantly in Santiago de Cuba. During that period Cuba also celebrates what is perhaps its most significant holiday, commemorating Castro’s attack on Fort Moncada on July 26, 1953. "Cuba" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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