Catalan success at the London Olympics marred by Spanish Government’s lack of support

Ivan Tibau, the Catalan Government’s Secretary of Sport, emphasises the “great effort” made by the Catalan Excutive to help the High Performance Sports Centre (CAR) and Catalan athletes compete in London 2012. The elite training centre did not receive funding from the Spanish Government for the last two years, amounting to €10.7 million. The Catalan Executive advanced the payment to keep the CAR running. Athletes trained at CAR made up 65% of medals won by the Spanish team at the London 2012 Olympics. Despite this, the Spanish Olympic Committee “closed the door” to the Catalan Government in regards to London 2012.

CNA / Laura Pous / David Tuxworth

August 14, 2012 03:29 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government’s Secretary of Sport, Ivan Tibau, told the ACN that the Catalan Executive has made a “great effort” to help the High Performance Sports Centre (CAR), based near Barcelona, and Catalan athletes to compete in London 2012. The Spanish Government should have given €10.7 million to the CAR, corresponding to the 2011 and 2012 budget according to its director Joan Fontserè. However, it still has not paid the amount. CAR athletes, which won 65% of Spain’s total medals in London 2010, were completely financed by the Catalan Government. “In order to not create conflict before the London Olympic Games we decided to hold off, but we are certainly in a difficult situation”, Tibau admitted. Athletes trained at CAR made up 65% of medals won by the Spanish team at the London 2012 Olympics. However, Tibau regrets that the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) “closed the door” to the Catalan Government in regards to the Olympic Games. Representatives of the Catalan Government were only in London thanks to intervention by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The accomplishments of Catalan athletes or athletes trained in Catalonia have grown. In London 2012, Joel González took gold in the 58kg Taekwondo Final and Mireia Belmonte won silver in both the 800m Freestyle and 200m Butterfly swimming events. The synchronised swimming and waterpolo teams, whose members were mostly Catalans, also saw success in the 2012 London Olympics winning medals for Spain. The participation of competitors in the world’s most important sporting event is thanks to elite institutions such as the High Performance Sports Center (CAR), based in Greater Barcelona (in Sant Cugat de Vallès). However for the past two years the elite training centre has not received the funds from the Spanish Government, which is supposed to partially fund the CAR. Spain’s central government owes CAR €5.5 million from 2011 and €5.6 million for this year, funding which the Catalan Government has had to fulfil in its entirety, according to the Director of the centre, Joan Fontserè.

The Catalan Government’s Secretary of Sport, Ivan Tibau, lamented that the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) did not recognise the Catalan efforts. On the contrary, the COE denied representatives from the Catalan Government to attend London 2012 and cheer up Catalan athletes and those trained at the CAR. However, Tibau recognised they received better treatment from the Spain’s High Council for Sport. “The COE did not open the doors for us to go to London, on the contrary, they closed them”, said Tibau, who finally was able to support athletes from Catalonia thanks to the efforts of Pere Miró from the International Olympic Committee.

“We found the COE not at all responsive, but we have to adapt. Clearly to them we are an annoyance, we know that, however we have to support our people and be by their side” said Tibau in an interview with the ACN. According to the Secretary General of Sport, the Catalan athletes are “thankful” for the Catalan Executive's intervention because “they know of the great efforts of the past year and a half by the Catalan Government, considering the resources that were needed to move forward with preparations and to make sure we weren’t paralysed before arriving in London”. “The athletes recognise this and we must make it clear because in the last time, funds from Madrid do not always arrive”, said Tibau. “In order to not create conflict before the London Olympic Games we decided to hold off, but we are certainly in a difficult situation which we hope in the upcoming months will be resolved” he added.

Catalan success

Despite the financial problems, both Tibau and the Director of CAR, Joan Fontserè, are proud of the Catalan results at the 2012 London Olympics. “The Spanish team had a high proportion of Catalan athletes and in terms of medals, the majority are from Catalan sportspeople or from athletes trained at our facilities in CAR. We couldn’t be happier”, said Fontserè to ACN.

“Joel González’s taekwondo success and the water polo team’s success, are 100% as a result of CAR, they are of the highest standard in our country, along with what we already knew with our synchronised swimming team or with Mireia Belmonte”, said Fontserè. “They are our assets and we are obviously very proud”, he added.

Ivan Tibau stated that within the Spanish team “35% of participating athletes were Catalan and they won 65% of medals, showing that Catalan sport has a very important role”. “Since with results we can’t get recognition, because they compete within the Spanish team, I have to say openly that our athletes have given their best and have led the Spanish team to a higher position”, emphasised the Secretary for Sport.

Catalan selection and the case of Fàbregas

Tibau emphasised that “full” recognition of Catalonia in competitions such as the Olympics or the World Cup would only come with its “own state status”. “We are working to try and get as much international recognition as possible. We currently have 21 successes, such as last year with darts and we are in the process of getting more. However the road is not easy because if you are not an independent country, entry into international federations is difficult due to political complications” said Tibau. “We will keep working to get more recognition”, he insisted. However, he wanted to emphasise that “we have to be clear that if we are not our own state it will be difficult to go much further”.

Tibau condemns the verbal attacks against the Catalan hockey player Àlex Fàbregas, who said in a press interview he was obliged to play with the Spanish national team as he could not do it with the Catalan one. Fàbregas received many insults and even death threats via Twitter, some coming from other sportsmen. He closed his Twitter account. Neither the COE, nor the Spanish Government condemned the attacks or gave their support to Fàbregas. Tibau reiterated that Fàbregas has the full support of the Catalan Government. According to Tibau the Catalan sportsman’s words were “honest, clear and without the intention of provoking anybody”. The Secretary of Sport said “the problem” is not Fàbregas, who is “free to say whatever he likes” about his feelings on Catalonia, but who attacked him. “We only ask that this does not affect the player’s career”, said Tibau, referring to Fàbregas’s expulsion from the Spanish hockey team for defending the Catalan point of view. “When I made a  similar statement in the past, the next day my sporting career was over” said Tibau, adding that Spanish representatives have assured him that there will not be any repercussions against Fàbregas.