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Cuban Sports Diplomacy in the Post-Cold War Period: International Identity versus Domestic Realities

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Summary For many years an important segment of Cuba’s public diplomacy has focused on Cuban sports. The Cuban regime politicized sports policies and athletic triumphs and attempted to use them to enhance its international influence. This, in turn, reflected a key dimension of the Cuban revolution: the effort to alter pre-revolutionary culture by creating a ‘new man’. Mass participation in sports and the victories of elite athletes alike showed Cuban socialism in action. During the post-Cold War era, however, replete with difficulties for Marxist regimes, budget cuts, leadership changes, reordered priorities and the reintroduction of capitalism have adversely affected Cuban sports. Cubans today lack the access to first-rate facilities that they once enjoyed. Many athletes have defected, while the skills of trainers and coaches have been sold abroad. These developments have threatened Cuba’s revolutionary sports culture and undermined the effectiveness of its sports diplomacy. The Cuban example suggests that the efficacy of sports diplomacy is related not only to the quality of athletic performances but to the manner in which underlying cultural norms either support or detract from diplomatic endeavours.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Louisville Louisville, KY 40292 United States


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