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donderdag, mei 31, 2012

Opinion: Why Syria is killing babies

People gather at a mass burial for victims in Houla in this handout image dated May 26.
People gather at a mass burial for victims in Houla in this handout image dated May 26.
  • Frida Ghitis: The Houla massacre caused much of the world to gasp
  • She says the regime is killing civilians, even children, to maintain a balance of terror
  • Syria's regime is choosing to follow path Iran used in crushing Green revolution, she says
  • Ghitis: It's not a surprise that Iranian forces are in Syria, helping the regime

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television."

(CNN) -- When a slow-motion massacre has unfolded over the course of 15 months, it's easy to lose the world's attention. But even the most jaded gasped in horror as news emerged of the latest carnage inflicted on the Syrian people. The images from the town of Houla defied belief.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went on a systematic killing spree, murdering at least 108 people. Most shockingly, the killers targeted women and children. A U.N. representative said the victims included 49 children who were younger than 10. The al-Assad regime denied it carried out the atrocities, but U.N. officials said they saw clear evidence that the Syrian government was involved in the attacks.

Why would a regime, even a brutal dictatorship, send its thugs to kill women and children, even babies? Does it make any sense, even by the twisted logic of armed conflict and tyranny?

Frida Ghitis

In a most perverse, sickening way, it makes perfect sense. And for the logic underlying this most inhuman tactic, one need only look at what has transpired in recent months and years as uprisings have sprung throughout the region, from Iran to Tunisia.

Now that Tehran has -- perhaps accidentally -- revealed that it has sent some of its forces to help al-Assad, the strategy has become even easier to understand.

The Syrian dictator is trying to restore a balance of fear, perhaps the most powerful weapon in the hands of tyrants throughout history. Killing children is supposed to intimidate the opposition.

A couple of days after the Houla massacre, a top commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Ismail Ghani, told a reporter from Iran's Isna news that "before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and nonphysical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented." Isna quickly deleted the interview, but the news was out.

Ghani is the deputy commander of the Quds Force, whose mission is "extraterritorial operations," or revolution beyond Iran's borders.

Western diplomats are pushing for a negotiated settlement, but Syria, Iran's only ally in the Arab world, is following what looks very much like an Iranian script, using blunt force to put down anti-government protests.

That's what Iran did in 2009 when the so-called Green Revolution arose after the disputed presidential elections. Tehran used its paramilitary Basij militias to brutally suppress the protests. But that was before the Arab uprisings showed people throughout the Middle East that sometimes revolutions do succeed.

When al-Assad scans the horizon, he sees what happened to other Arab dictators. The presidents of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have lost power. The example of Moammar Gadhafi does not seem to apply to him so far, since opinion in the West until now has leaned against direct military intervention

A reign of terror helped al-Assad's father, the feared Hafez Assad, keep power for three decades, and then hand the country to his son as if it amounted to private property to be inherited by the next generation. When the elder Assad faced an uprising in 1982, he ordered his loyal army to pulverize the opposition. The entire town of Hama was razed to the ground. Estimates of the dead range from 10,000 to 30,000 killed by Assad's troops. That put a quick end to the revolt.

The younger al-Assad is trying to do his father proud. But, despite the mounting death toll, he has lost the weapon of fear. Already 13,000 people are said to have died in the Syrian uprising. Despite that, the protesters are not staying home.

Al-Assad, incidentally, denies any responsibility for the Houla massacre. He blames "terrorists," but nobody's buying his denials. Witnesses say, and the evidence confirms, that government troops started firing tank shells and mortars at protesters during the Friday demonstration that has become a ritual of the anti-dictatorship movement. But the worst was yet to come.

Houla is a Sunni Muslim town, a stronghold of the anti-Assad movement. It is also home to a military college, from where the tank and mortar fire came. U.N. observers found evidence of tank shells, which are not part of the opposition's arsenal.

Before long, paramilitary forces known as the Shabiha -- the Syrian version of Iran's Basij -- joined the fight, assaulting demonstrators with gunfire and knives. By nightfall, the attacks became the worst of nightmares. The Shabiha, gangs of thugs and criminals, mostly belong to the president's Alawite sect. According to the U.N., about 20 people were killed by artillery fire. Most of the others were murdered execution-style in their homes. In some cases, entire families were killed.

In the face of the heart wrenching death toll, the U.S., the West and the rest of the world are feeling renewed pressure to take action. The Syrian opposition and some in the region have called for intervention, but few are inclined to step in.

Some observers, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, say the U.S. should step back, arguing that as tragic as the situation is, there are many other problems of greater importance.

But the probable presence of Iran in Syria highlights just how important this battle is, and not just for the Syrian people. The U.S. and the rest of the world should care about Syria not only for humanitarian reasons, but because the entire Middle East is now in play.

If al-Assad survives, it will mark a victory for anti-American, anti-democratic forces in the Middle East. It will tilt the balance of power in the region in favor of dictatorship, in favor of the use of force and fear as the instrument of power and in favor of a regime in Tehran whose aim is to export its brand of retrograde, anti-American, anti-women, anti-gay, freedom-suppressing revolution.

If al-Assad falls, it will mark a major defeat for Iran, one that will alter the region in ways that, while not certain to follow American wishes in every respect, has the potential to eventually improve stability.

This is the Syrian people's fight, and there's no need now to put American "boots on the ground." But the U.S. government has a long menu of options to help bring about the end of the despicable al-Assad regime.

No choice is without risk, and no route is assured of success, but it is clear that those seeking to overthrow the al-Assad regime should receive more active help from the West. The riskiest course of action is to stay on the sidelines and let Bashar al-Assad murder his people while we look the other way.

The killing of children by a regime determined to intimidate the opposition made that point abundantly clear.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/31/opinion/ghitis-syria-killing-children/index.html?eref=edition

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Young refugees find footing in U.S.

El Cajon, California (CNN) -- Khalid Yohana was 7 years old when war reached his hometown of Mosul, Iraq.

For years, even the simplest activities, like walking to school, were an ordeal.

"It was too scary to go outside much," Yohana, now 16, remembers. "If you walk on the street ... you're nervous you'd get killed."

A group of men once tried to kidnap his father, a chef at a Baghdad restaurant that catered to Americans. The attempt failed, but a threatening letter arrived at his family's home that same night.

"They warned us to get out of the country or they would kill us. ... I was really scared," Yohana said.

The family fled to a small village north, but when Yohana's school was bombed a year later, they left Iraq for good. They traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, and applied for refugee status so they could move to the United States legally.

In 2010, Yohana and his family arrived in San Diego. The family appreciated the safety of their new home, but they also encountered new problems. Yohana's father struggled to find work, and the entire family found it challenging to navigate a new country and culture.

"It was really hard because we (didn't) speak the language," Yohana said. He was often so discouraged by his poor English that he wouldn't even try to do his homework.

Mark Kabban remembers how tough it was for him to adjust to the United States when he was a child.
Mark Kabban remembers how tough it was for him to adjust to the United States when he was a child.

The social isolation was worse.

"It was really hard to find friends," Yohana said. "I was just sitting at home."

While working as a refugee case manager for a nonprofit, Mark Kabban saw many families like Yohana's struggle to find their footing in the United States.

"You lose a lot of your dignity when you become a refugee," Kabban said. "You have to flee your country, depend on others. You lose your self-esteem."

Kabban said the transition can be particularly challenging for children, who face educational and social barriers. The stress they endure often puts them at risk of getting on the wrong track.

"Their families have sacrificed everything for them to get here. So if (their kids) don't succeed, that's the biggest tragedy," said Kabban, 25. "It's something that I'm not going to allow."

To help support young refugees, Kabban started the YALLA program in 2009. The name is an acronym for Youth And Leaders Living Actively, but in Arabic it simply means "Let's go." YALLA provides free tutoring and soccer training to 200 boys and girls in the San Diego area.

While soccer is what mostly motivates the players, it's just a carrot to Kabban. Many of his players have missed years of formal schooling on their road to the United States, so the mandatory twice-a-week tutoring sessions are an integral part of the program.

"When they get here, they're years behind, and they're years behind in a different language," Kabban said. "So the need is just immense. We're working to get them literate in English, getting them ... caught up."

The YALLA staff also makes sure the players are registered to receive 25 hours of one-on-one tutoring from a statewide program. When necessary, YALLA also provides additional tutoring to those who are struggling. The hope is to help everyone get up to grade level and on a path to college.

Do you know a hero? Nominations are open for 2012 CNN Heroes

According to the U.S. State Department, more than 10,000 refugees from around the world have moved to the San Diego area legally since 2007, making it one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the country.

Many of those newcomers, like Yohana, are Iraqis who are under 18. The vast majority live in El Cajon, a city in San Diego County where YALLA is based. Mark spreads the word about the group by visiting area schools.

Most of the players in the program are Iraqi, but the group has players from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Sometimes ethnic and religious differences can lead to conflict, but Kabban says that as the soccer season progresses, the differences fall by the wayside.

"Their families have endured the same struggles," Kabban said. "When they realize that ... they become like brothers and sisters."

Their families have endured the same struggles. When they realize that ... they become like brothers and sisters.
CNN Hero Mark Kabban

Some children have lost more than their homeland. Some have witnessed one of their parents being killed, or they've been kidnapped and tortured themselves. Kabban, who helps run many of the practices, tries to keep the atmosphere serious but fun so that time on the field is a much-needed escape.

"Soccer is (the) best therapy," Kabban said. "They have an hour or two to forget about everything and just be kids."

Kabban cares deeply because he faced many of the challenges the refugees are experiencing. He was never officially a refugee, but his family left Beirut during Lebanon's 15-year civil war, a conflict in which three members of his extended family were killed.

Kabban's family lived in several places -- including the United States, where his father attended college -- before permanently immigrating to the San Diego area when Kabban was 9. For him, the social adjustment was particularly rough.

"I had all the wrong clothes on, and I got made fun of," he said. "They called me 'poor kid.' My self-esteem was really, really low."

That changed when he discovered American football, scoring a touchdown the first time he got the ball.

"Sports was the way I got confident, made friends and felt I was like other kids," he said. He went on to earn a football scholarship at Baker University, a small private school in Kansas where he studied foreign relations.

After graduating in 2008, Kabban planned to go to Egypt to get a graduate degree in refugee studies. But on a visit home that summer, he learned about the large influx of refugees that San Diego had experienced in recent years.

"I started thinking to myself, 'Why am I going halfway across the world to learn about refugees when they're all here in my own hometown?' " he said.

Instead of going to graduate school, Kabban got a job with Catholic Charities, helping refugees settle into their new lives. He was troubled to see so many children sitting at home, alienated, but he also noticed how they lit up when they saw a soccer ball.

One day, he brought a ball with him while making a home visit. As he approached the apartment complex, he heard a boy yell the Arabic word for ball. Kabban began kicking it around with him, and within minutes, 20 kids had joined the game. That moment gave Kabban the inspiration for YALLA's approach.

Although the organization is relatively new, YALLA has managed to get funding from local foundations and businesses. Everything -- tutoring, soccer and occasional field trips -- is provided at no cost, something the kids appreciate, as nearly all of them know that money is tight at home.

Kabban has also made it a priority to reach out to those who aren't refugees.

When refugees started arriving in the area, there was tension in schools between them, Latinos and African-Americans. To counteract this, Kabban started the Peacebuilders League, a soccer league open to everyone in the area.

"We wanted to bring them all together and start making a community," he said. "Now it looks like the World Cup here every Sunday."

Ultimately, Kabban hopes to build a "peace-building" charter school for refugees, immigrants and marginalized youth that would use soccer in a formal college prep program.

Kabban's commitment to the organization is so strong that for more than a year he has worked full-time without a salary, living off his savings. The kids at YALLA know he quit his job for them, and they're quick to acknowledge the huge difference he has made in their lives.

"I don't know the way (to) say thank you to Coach Mark," Yohana said. "They helped me to find friends, and they (taught) me how to speak English. ... Now, with YALLA and Coach Mark, it's a fun life."

Stories like that are what push Kabban to keep going.

"This country gave my family the chance to succeed," he said. "I want to help these kids do the same thing."

Want to get involved? Check out the YALLA website at www.yallasd.com and see how to help.

Source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/qmP4NrM5jPI/index.html

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2020: Doha's out, who's in?

 Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid will compete for the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid will compete for the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid made the cut
  • Doha in Qatar and Baku in Azerbaijan did not
  • Selection of host city will take place on September 7, 2013

(CNN) -- The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid have made it on to the short list of cities bidding to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Baku and Doha were rejected for the second time in a row after failing to make the 2016 games.

"The executive board has decided that the following cities can continue to the next phase and become candidates for 2020. In the order of drawing lots: Istanbul, Tokyo, and Madrid," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

The three remaining candidate cities will enter into Phase 2 of the selection period. Files from the cities will be submitted to the IOC by January 7, 2013. Following an official visit by the IOC Evaluation Commission between February and April of 2013, a report will be made to the 2020 IOC Evaluation Commission and candidate cities will brief IOC members.

The election of the host city of the XXXII Olympic Summer Games will take place on September 7, 2013, at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.

Olympic cyclist comes full circle

In culling the field from five to three cities, the IOC executive board relied "on application files, the report of a working group of experts which is formed to assess the application forms of each city, the city's compliance with elements like the World Anti-Doping Code, and other criteria," said Adams.

Pressure to succeed at the Olympics

Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar, had proposed changing the games to October 2-18, to mitigate the extreme temperatures athletes would have to experience during the usual July-August summer games. Based on a 10-year average, Doha temperatures in October range from 30 to 36 degrees Celsius (86 to 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The working group also decided against Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for its infrastructural limitations. The "games planning and experience," were "not sufficiently developed at this stage," according to the report.

Of the five candidate cities, only Tokyo has hosted the Olympics before, in the XVIII Olympiad held in the summer of 1964.

Source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_sport/~3/1y53hHlRt8A/index.html

gadgets sports interesting photography

PSA: SpaceX's Dragon due to splash down at 11:44am ET (video)

PSA: SpaceX's Dragon due to splash down at 11:44am ET

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station at 4:07am ET and began its gentle descent into the atmosphere soon after. It's the home straight for the historic private spaceflight company as it concludes its first ever supply mission to the heavens. It's due to splash down in the Pacific Ocean, a few hundred miles off the coast of southern California at 11:44am ET. If you'd like to watch the craft being retrieved from its watery berth then head on past the break, with coverage set to begin from 10:15am ET.

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/31/psa-spacex-dragon-splashdown/

bbc hot topics news gadgets

Coulson 'to fight' perjury charge

Andy Coulson arrives at a police stationAndy Coulson was driven to Glasgow by police officers

Prime Minister David Cameron's former director of communications Andy Coulson is to "vigorously contest" a perjury charge over the Tommy Sheridan trial.

Mr Coulson, 44, was detained at his home in London on Wednesday, taken for questioning to Glasgow, then formally charged and arrested that evening.

The charge related to evidence he gave at the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan in 2010.

Mr Coulson's lawyer said he would fight the allegations if they went to trial.

A statement from DLA Piper said: "Andy Coulson will vigorously contest the perjury allegations made against him yesterday by Strathclyde Police should they ever result in a trial.

"We have no further comment at this stage."

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18280764#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

gadgets sports interesting photography

Fire death parents are remanded

Mairead and Mick Philpott at a previous news conferenceMairead and Mick Philpott held a press conference after the fire to thank emergency services

The parents of six children who died in a house fire in Derby have appeared in court charged with their murder.

Mick Philpott, 55, and his wife Mairead, 31, confirmed their names at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court.

Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jessie, six and Jayden, five, died in the house fire on Victory Road on 11 May. Duwayne, 13, died three days later.

The couple will appear in custody at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-18276096#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

photography wired bbc hot topics

Woman makes FIFA history

Burundi's Lydia Nsekera is becoming an influential figure with both FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
Burundi's Lydia Nsekera is becoming an influential figure with both FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
  • Burundi's Lydia Nsekera co-opted to FIFA Executive Committee
  • Nsekera first woman member of the world governing body's decision making body
  • South Sudan admitted as FIFA's 209th member
  • Decision delayed on whether to allow Kosovo to play friendly matches

(CNN) -- Burundi's Lydia Nsekera became the first woman to be co-opted on to FIFA's executive committee as the Congress of the world governing body ratified her appointment Friday.

The 45-year-old Nsekera is currently president of the Burundi Football Association and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee.

The former basketball player and high jumper has made a rapid rise through the ranks of sports administration since becoming involved in the running of a women's football team in 2001.

A graduate of the University of Burundi, Nsekera has been a member of the organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments and has been widely credited with reforming her own football federation after years of turmoil.

Her appointment comes as FIFA embarks on a reform program in the wake of recent corruption scandals.

A campaigner for women's rights, Nsekera is keen to be a role model for others to follow.

"Women have to understand that they have a role to play off the pitch, that they can easily take on responsibilities and become leaders. Men need to accept that too," she told FIFA.com.

"In Africa, no one thinks that women are cut out to be leaders, especially in football. So it's been a long process for me to find acceptance," she added.

The FIFA Congress sitting in Budapest, also admitted South Sudan Friday as its 209th member.

The decision comes just under a year after it declared independence and joined the United Nations.

South Sudan and Sudan have been involved in a lengthy conflict, but peace talks between the two nations are due to resume next week.

But FIFA delayed a decision on whether to permit non-FIFA member Kosovo to play friendly matches against member federations.

FIFA's executive committee had given Kosovo the go-ahead earlier this week, but Serbia launched a protest at the move.

Kosovo is a former Serb province and that fought a two-year battle for independence.

It is still not recognized by Serbia.

Source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_sport/~3/EA_cUfDA5ck/index.html

sports interesting photography wired

Anodizing aluminum and titanium explained and demonstrated in less than five minutes (video)

Anodizing aluminum and titanium explained and demonstrated in less than five minutes (video)

Many of us use gadgets that sport gleamingly refined, anodized aluminum or titanium cases -- but have you ever wondered exactly how the process works? Bill Hammack, at it again after explaining to us how the CCD, LCDs, and hard drives work, breaks it down (pun intended) for us -- in less than five minutes. He talks about, and even shows us how the surface of titanium is meticulously rusted using electro-chemicals to grow an oxide layer, changing the color based on its thickness. He follows that up with some commentary on how a similar reaction gobbles up and transforms aluminum, creating a much thicker, porous oxide layer that can be filled with any color dye. So, just to be clear: controlled corrosion is good for your Mac, border control -- maybe not so much. You can watch the video right after the break.

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/31/bill-hammack-anodizing-aluminum-titanium/

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Intel details 14 dual-core Ivy Bridge processors ahead of Computex

Intel details 14 dual-core Ivy Bridge processors ahead of Computex

Intel announced its quad-core Ivy Bridge processors in April, but we've known that dual-core CPUs must be on the way too. And alas, the chip maker does have some up its sleeve -- 14, to be exact. Core i5 and Core i7 versions will be the first to ship, with Core i3 processors launching later this year along with new Pentiums and Celerons. Of the 14 dual-core processors, six are desktop-grade. The rest are mobile, though four are ultra-low voltage (which will be denoted by a U at the end of their name). Computex is just around the corner, and we expect to see plenty of Ivy Bridge systems -- especially Ultrabooks with ultra-low voltage CPUs -- there next week. In the meantime, we've already reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad x230, a system running a dual-core 2.6GHz Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. If you're into the nitty-gritty details, you'll find plenty to love in the Intel slides below the break.

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Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/31/intel-dual-core-ivy-bridge/

gadgets sports interesting photography

Secrets to Cuba's boxing success

Boys at a Havana gym practice their boxing stance. Boxing, like baseball, is a sport many Cubans are passionate about.Boys at a Havana gym practice their boxing stance. Boxing, like baseball, is a sport many Cubans are passionate about.
Cuban fighters square off at a regional boxing tournament. A victory here could lead to a selection for the country's national team and the possibility of representing Cuba at the Olympics. Cuban fighters square off at a regional boxing tournament. A victory here could lead to a selection for the country's national team and the possibility of representing Cuba at the Olympics.
Boxers in Cuba fight at an exhibition match on May 10, 2012. Despite the fact that fighters cannot compete professionally, the country has consistently produced world-class boxers.Boxers in Cuba fight at an exhibition match on May 10, 2012. Despite the fact that fighters cannot compete professionally, the country has consistently produced world-class boxers.
Hector Vinent Charon trains the youngsters at the Rafael Trejo boxing gym in Havana. Charon (left) is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, having won the light welterweight at both the 1992 and 1996 Games.Hector Vinent Charon trains the youngsters at the Rafael Trejo boxing gym in Havana. Charon (left) is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, having won the light welterweight at both the 1992 and 1996 Games.
Professional sport is outlawed in Cuba, but it does not stop some of its athletes making money from their talent. Yuriorkis Gamboa won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics before defecting and eventually launching a pro career in the U.S.Professional sport is outlawed in Cuba, but it does not stop some of its athletes making money from their talent. Yuriorkis Gamboa won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics before defecting and eventually launching a pro career in the U.S.
Cuba has an incredible Olympic boxing pedigree, having won 32 gold medals in the sport. Teofilo Stevenson is arguably the country's greatest Olympian, winning three heavyweight golds from 1972.Cuba has an incredible Olympic boxing pedigree, having won 32 gold medals in the sport. Teofilo Stevenson is arguably the country's greatest Olympian, winning three heavyweight golds from 1972.
Stevenson's final gold came at the 1980 Moscow Games, where he beat Piotr Zaev of the Soviet Union in the final. Stevenson was also crowned world amateur champion on three occasions.Stevenson's final gold came at the 1980 Moscow Games, where he beat Piotr Zaev of the Soviet Union in the final. Stevenson was also crowned world amateur champion on three occasions.
In Beijing four years ago, Cuba failed to clinch an Olympic gold. Emilio Correa (left) had to settle for silver after losing to Britain's James DeGale in the middleweight final.In Beijing four years ago, Cuba failed to clinch an Olympic gold. Emilio Correa (left) had to settle for silver after losing to Britain's James DeGale in the middleweight final.
  • Boxing is a passion in Cuba, rivaling baseball as the country's national sport
  • Professional sport is outlawed in Cuba, but the country still produces world-class boxers
  • Cuban heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson won three golds between 1972 and 1980
  • The men's boxing event at London 2012 begins at London's Excel center on July 28

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- The stands around the boxing ring were mostly empty and the bout was a mere three-round exhibition fight, but Dlandy Regalado Ajete battled as if a title was on the line.

"If you want to be a great boxer in Cuba," he said, moments after being declared the winner, "you have to be willing to work hard and sacrifice."

Regalado's drive isn't unique for Cuba. Boxing, along with baseball, is a passion that runs deep for many of the island's 11 million inhabitants.

And despite Cuba's small population, the country has been a consistent force to be reckoned with at the Olympic Games, winning 32 gold medals in the sport.

Three of those golds went to Cuban boxing legend Teofilo Stevenson. Now 60 years old, Stevenson has lost the quickness in his step and he carries the scars of years of battle in the ring.

Cuba's punching pedigree
Olympic cyclist comes full circle
Pressure to succeed at the Olympics
Bouncing to the top at London 2012

But his eyes still light up when he discusses the sport that made him a household name around the world.

"Cubans like to box because of our temperament," Stevenson said, with a smile creeping across his lips. "Because of our idiosyncrasies and because we have needed to know how to defend ourselves."

After the 1950s Cuban revolution, boxing was briefly banned by the country's new leaders. But then -- like all sports-- it fell under the control of the government. Today that remains the case as there are no professional sports in Cuba.

In the 1960s, boxing trainers -- many of them Soviet -- were brought into work with fledgling talent such as Stevenson.

Cuban boxers' amateur status let them compete in the Olympics, but not on the high profile --and high paying -- professional fight circuit. Stevenson famously turned a million-dollar offer to fight Muhammad Ali.

Other Cuban fighters have chosen a different path, defecting and earning the huge purses not available to them in their home country.

Despite those losses, Cuba's boxing commissioner Alberto Puig says there is a deep talent pool to draw from.

"Our strength comes from the heart, from patriotism," he said. "Our boxers may not have a million dollars but they have 11 million Cubans who support them."

Puig said despite the country's legacy of great boxers, he expected countries like Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to provide strong competition at the 2012 Olympics in London.

He believes Cuba's advantage comes from the government's ability to identify and cultivate emerging talent at a young age.

"We can say with total certainty that in the farthest corner of Cuba if there's a talented boxer we know about him and are following his progress," he said. "So that maybe one day he might join our national team."

Our boxers may not have a million dollars but they have 11 million Cubans who support them
Alberto Puig

The Rafael Trejo boxing gym in Havana is one of the places where young boxers receive that encouragement from a young age. The students receive lessons as early as eight years old in the gym's open-air ring.

While the facilities are threadbare, the instruction they receive is world class.

Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Hector Vinent Charon runs the gym, teaching the children how to throw and take a punch.

"What makes Cubans different is the intelligence that we fight with," he said, "Our aggression, our tactics and the way we move."

Vinent said most of the children at the Trejo are boxing as an after-school activity. They will pick up the basics of boxing and confidence while never achieving greatness in the ring.

Boxing teaches them skills, he said, they can use in their everyday life.

"We teach them the elements of boxing but also patriotism," he said. "How you act in the classroom or on the street. It's not just boxing."

Vinent is looking for young fighters with drive and something to prove.

Because there among the gangly youths bobbing and weaving in his classes, Vinent said, could very well be Cuba's next champion of the ring.

Source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_sport/~3/ZbfodXYiQno/index.html

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Ukraine probes ticket scandal

Sergey Bubka, president of the Ukraine National Olympic Committee, has suspended an official over ticket fraud claims
Sergey Bubka, president of the Ukraine National Olympic Committee, has suspended an official over ticket fraud claims
  • Senior member of Ukraine National Olympic Committee (UNOC) suspended
  • Volodymyr Gerashchenko said to have agreed to sell 100 Games tickets on black market
  • Gerashchenko suspended by UNOC president Sergey Bubka Wednesday

(CNN) -- Ukraine has suspended one of their top Olympic officials after an investigation alleged he was willing to sell up to 100 tickets for the London Games on the black market.

A probe by the BBC, a British broadcaster, made the claims about Volodymyr Gerashchenko, a senior member of the Ukraine National Olympic Committee (UNOC).

Gerashchenko, who has been part of the UNOC since 1997, was told of his suspension Wednesday by president Sergey Bubka, the former pole vaulting legend.

A statement on UNOC's website quoyed Bubka as saying: "As President of the Ukraine NOC, I am committed to maintaining the highest standards and ethics within the Olympic Movement.

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I am deeply concerned about these allegations and I have ordered an immediate investigation in Ukraine
Sergey Bubka. Ukraine Olympic Committee president

"I am deeply concerned about these allegations and I have ordered an immediate investigation in Ukraine. I have briefly spoken with General Secretary Gerashchenko and informed him that he is suspended pending this investigation.

"I have also spoken to (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) chairman Sebastian Coe since I learnt of this news and informed him that I will ensure that we fully co-operate with any subsequent investigation that takes place in London.

"There has never been a situation where we have had a surplus number of tickets and those that we have received will all be distributed using official channels.

"London 2012 is going to be a spectacular celebration of sport and it is imperative that tickets are distributed to deserving recipients."

However, AFP reported that Bubka's deputy, Viktor Korzh, was dubious about the veracity of the BBC's claims.

"I still have great doubts about this and think that the whole story could come to nothing," he is said to have told reporters.

In their undercover operation, the BBC alleged Gerashchenko told a reporter he was willing to sell up to 100 tickets.

He said: "I understand you're a dealer -- that's why for me, you are priority number one, the top, the person, in case we have extra tickets to contact you, we contact you."

When the charges were put to him, he is said to have responded that he "never planned to sell tickets in the UK," and had been making "diplomatic talk to satisfy the persistent interest of the ticket dealer."

Source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_sport/~3/9cXLX_YqBSk/index.html

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