Mérida, July 18th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The IV Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) Games began yesterday with an opening ceremony in Barquisimeto, Lara state. The games form a part of the ALBA regional integration strategy.
Venezuela and Cuba have alternated hosting the games, which are run every two years, and first took place in Cuba in 2005.
This year 23 countries including Spain, Colombia, Mexico and others who have chosen to participate despite not being members of ALBA, will be competing in 35 sports disciplines. Sports include swimming, athletics, judo, handball, boxing, chess, table tennis, and more.
Over 2,000 athletes are involved in the games, which will end on 30 July.
Minister for Sports, Hector Rodriguez, speaking to the press yesterday, said, “The investment that the [Venezuelan] state has made is more than Bs 100 million ($US 23 million), which confirms the commitment of the national executive to democratise sports”.
“We’re going to compete, we’re going to win medals, but above all we’re going to share. These games are a real tool for the union of our peoples,” said Venezuelan vice-president Elias Jaua, as he declared the event open.
“This isn’t a space for commerce, but rather for integration. We’re here watching the IV ALBA games to show that this presidents’ initiative is a space for life and for the meeting of Latin American youth,” he added.
During the first ALBA games in 2005, then Cuban president, Fidel Castro, said, “[The games] are proof of what can be done when governments have the political will and there is support by the people. We’re making the dream of friendship, cooperation, and solidarious integration among the brother peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the area of sports a reality”.
“Beyond treaties between states, it’s important to foment Latin America Union through permanent cultural exchange between the inhabitants of the region,” said Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at the time, commenting that sports were an “excellent vehicle to achieve this objective”.