Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Speaking to Catalunya Radio, the representative of the Chilean federation, Armando Quintanilla, accused the Spanish federation of pressuring the south American countries against the admission of Catalonia. Quintanilla stated that members of the Spanish federation traveled to the South American under 16 Championship just two weeks before the FIRS Congress and once there they promised many countries help for voting against Catalonia.
Quintanilla also stated that : " the Spanish federation sent loads of faxes and emails telling us what to vote or otherwise we would lose some of the economic help that they provide."
According to Quintanilla the FIRS Congress was a shame and it has been the sport of roller hockey they main affected by this situation.
The Czeck Republic representative Radek Pavelec, has also admitted that his federation received pressures from the Spanish government.
In addition, a letter of the Spanish Council for Sports (CSD) to the Colombian federation in which the Spaniards were asking for the vote against Catalonia has been made public. In that letter the CSD states that the recognition of Catalonia would alter the Spanish sport national unity and would create a wrong precedent.
The same letter was sent to some other south American federations.
The German representative admitted that she was contacted by the German MP for Sport demanding the vote against Catalonia. Literally he asked her to make sure she was coming back from Fresno with a "no" against Catalonia.
More to come....
Monday, November 29, 2004
This is a summary of the interview:
"It is very difficult to be able to express at the moment, the feeling of rage, sadness and impotence that I feel due to the events that happened in Fresno.
There is no way to accept the shoddy work that has taken place in the city of Fresno, the brazenness of people that,like it has always been done in our sport, back handed without no democratic consideration nor moral repairs.
I consider myself to be a neutral person, and that gives me the moral authority to think with objectivity on what occurred the these days in the U.S.A.
It is true though that my links to Catalunya makes me understand and defend the fight for their sport rights at world-wide level, but is not less certain that those rights are legal and loyal.
Their aspirations where snatched even before the start of the Congress in a dictatorial and totally malicious way.
In conclusion, I do not know if someday justice will be made but I'm sure this week will be recorded as the blackest and most irrational in the history of roller hockey.
I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be present in the Olympic games of Barcelona 92 because now with this people who rule the FIRS, our sport will never be able to play in the Olympic games again.
God bless hockey and God bless Catalunya "
Thank you Gaby!
Although this might come as a shock for some, the idea is not that injudicious.
Ramon Baisana, president of the Catalan federation of roller sports (FCP) has admitted that this is a possibility to ponder.
Oliveras de la Riva, already former president of the FIRS, speaking with the Catalan radio station RAC1 acknowledged this option and confessed that it could be a sensible way forward for the Catalan hockey.
Similarly to what happened with the European basketball a few years ago, the Catalan federation would create a professionaly managed league in which all the Catalan teams would be able to compete. We must remember that 12 out of the 16 teams of the actual Spanish OK league are from Catalonia.
The downside of this would be the probable retaliation from the Spanish federation and from the International Committee of Rink Hockey, who could banned the Catalan teams from participating in European competitions.
Whatever decision the FCP takes, it has been confirmed by the Catalan government that they will still have the same budget as they have at the present.
Inevitably, the creation of a new league and the consequent separation of the Catalan federation from the Spanish, would mean the end of the roller hockey in Spain. Given that 12 out of the 16 best teams in the Spanish league are from Catalonia and that around 95% of the players and coaches are Catalans, the quality and the the structure of the professional teams remaining in the Spanish league would get very affected.
Is this the way forward? well, ask yourselves something: have we got any other options?
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Literally, Aracu states that: "following precise instructions from the President of Italy and according to the suggestions and pressures that other governments have directed towards me in the past months, I activated a plot of international mediation that has determined the vote of the members of the FIRS Executive Committee against Catalonia".
Aracu, proudly adds that: "by doing this I have eliminated the possibility of a dangerous precedent that would have encouraged the nationalism present in Spain and many other countries".
In any other country, these words would be taken very seriously and an immediate resignation would be expected.
Read Aracus' press note:
The expulsion of the Catalan Federation of Skating after having being provisionally admitted last March in Miami, can bring manifold as much consequences in this sport as in the fight by the international recognition of the Catalan sport selections.
The strange circumstances in which the refusal took place will entail that the subject has continuity in the courts.
The strategy of the Catalan hockey is determined by Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, famous by the Bosman case and contracted by the Catalan government. Dupont affirmed on Friday that although "it is not good to take decisions in the heat of the moment, we should take the case to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) that is made up of impartial judges who can distribute justice in this subject".
If the Catalans resort to the CAS they will have to do so in the term of 20 days and the decision could be known in a term between six and eight months.
All the effort and excellent hockey that some innocent players put together to lift the first World Cup for Catalonia has vanished thanks to the dirty politics and interests of a bunch of politicians that don't really care about hockey.
From this site I would like to express my appreciation to every single member of that Catalan team who made us proud of loving hockey and being Catalans. Thank you!
Saturday, November 27, 2004
More articles and the Italian point of view at:
Feel free to email Sabatino Aracu at ARACU_S@camera.it
Unfortunately, in the 21st century there are still some so-called democratic countries that think they can use everything they want in order to accomplish their objectives.
This is what happened yesterday in the annual congress of the FIRS in Fresno (California).
The scenes lived in the Assembly made clear that there was a plot so that Catalunya wasn't recognised as a full member of the FIRS.
It was a monumental scandal. A shameful end for an authentic collective shame, that made the former president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva, to publicly apologise in behave of the world of roller sports.
It all started when the General Secretary of the FIRS, Roberto Maroto, proposed to vote the ratification of the decision taken by the Executive Committee of invalidating the provisional admission of Catalonia.
Ignacio González, lawyer of the Spanish, stormed off his seat shouting and asking for that voting not to take place.
From that moment the chaos took over the meeting.
First the possibility of secret voting was prevented (despite the fact that more than two federations requested so), later it was said that the voting was to say no to the provisional admission of Catalonia, which really confused most of the FIRS, and finally the Catalan federation was not allowed to take the work and defense their arguments.
Jean Louis Dupont, lawyer of the Catalan federation, approached the microphone but he was prevented to speak by the Italian Aracy and the Spanish lawyer Gozalez.
In this scandalous climate and while some South American members requested explanations, the Secretary General started up the voting, that resulted in 114 yes (not to Catalunya), 8 favorable votes and 2 abstentions. The "no" to Catalonia arrived after 12 minutes of dialectic battle that at some moments gave the impression that could end up in a fight, with the Spaniards trying to rule the meeting .
It was outrageous to see an Italian MP, Sabatino Aracu, shouting at the Catalan lawyer and phisically blocking him from expressing his legal opinion.
It was the culmination of the authentic holdup that has been both days lived in Fresno and the clear demonstration that there have been many political pressures to prevent the admission of Catalunya was accepted.
Friday, November 26, 2004
The different delegates of the FIRS have started entering the hall where the FIRS Congress will take place.
Ramon Basiana, president of the Catalan federation, has confirmed that the Spanish government has interfered with the voting and have pressured many governments and federations.
18 20 GMT
The actual president of the FIRS, Isidro Oliveras will open the annual congress. After his speech he is expected to present his resignation.
18 25 GMT
We must remember that the FIRS Executive Committee has accepted an appeal against the decision taken yesterday.
Therefore, if only one federation asks for a voting to ratify the decision taking by the committee the congress will have to vote. Then if 51% of the votes are against the decision of the Executive Committee, Catalonia will have to be included in the list of federations provisionally admitted and will have another chance to become a full member of the FIRS.
18 27 GMT
The different members of the FIRS are starting to take a seat in the hall. The Congress will begin in a few minutes.
18 57 GMT
The Congress hasn't started yet. There is a delay of one hour due to unknown reasons.
19 15 GMT
The president of the FIRS has started his speech.
Oliveras who was supposed to present his resignation at the beginning of this meeting hasn't done so yet.
Oliveras has explained the decision taken by the Executive Committe. He has said that his absence from the voting yesterday was to allow the other members to vote without any pressure since he had previously expressed his favorable opinion to the recognition of Catalonia.
Oliveras has congratulated the Spanish federation and their representatives.
19 32 GMT
Oliveras has asked for a few minutes to explain his beliefs. Now he is talking about ethical decisions and assumption of political responsibilities. For these reasons he presents his unconditional resignation. He believes that he must present his resignation since it is clear that the Committe doesn't share his ideas and consequently it wouldn't be right to carry on presiding the FIRS.
He has presented Ernesto Gonzalez Molina as the new provisional president of the FIRS.
20 06 GMT
Oliveras has stated that the appeal presented by the Catalans will be seen in item 12 of the meeting. He has explained that if the appeal is accepted the Congress will have to vote. Oliveras has also stated that the representatives of the Catalan and Spanish federation might have the chance to speak and express their arguments.
Oliveras has also explained that the FIRS has to be cautious with the way this issue is handed since if the FIRS constitution is broken the issue could be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and that could have awful consequences for the FIRS.
20 15 GMT
The provisional president of the FIRS Ernesto Gonzalez Molina has taken over Isidro Oliveras and he is going through the different items of the meeting.
As the Catalan appeal is item 10 we will be back in due time.
21 00 GMT
It appears that in 2 or 3 hours, Jean Louis Dupont, the lawyer representing the Catalan federation will speak to the FIRS congress to explain that the decision taken by the Executive Committee is not legal and therefore the Congress should reverse the decision taken yesterday. If the Congress decide not to reverse that decision, Dupont will express the desire of the Catalan federation to take the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
21 17 GMT
The Congress has aproved the admission of a set of federations in which Catalonia is not included.
Afterwards, the item 12 will be raised and the president will ask whether any federation wants the voting to be secret.
21 22 GMT
Mexico has asked for the voting to be secret. The president of the Spanish federation is protesting against this decision. There is a big argument between the Spanish representative and the FIRS. The president of the Spanish federation wants to vote the ratification of the decision the Executive Committe whether the Congress wants to vote the provisional admission of each country one at each time.
21 30 GMT
Chaos at the Congress!
The Spanish federation is demanding not to vote but there is an appeal from the Catalan federation and therefore it has to be ratified or rejected by the members of the Congress in secret voting.
The spanish representatives are not allowing the Catalan lawyer to speak in the Congress. Jean Louis Dupont wants to explain the Congress that the voting has to be secret if two federations ask for this. The Catalan federation should be allowed to speak since they have filed an appeal that has been accepted.
The Spanish lawyer has just told the Catalan lawyer to get out of the Congress since he has not spanish nationality (?)
The situation is now very tense.
21 45 GMT
The Congress has voted against the admission of Gibraltar. The voting has not been secret.
The Congress has voted against the admission of Catalonia. The voting has not been secret. The Spanish federations has applauded the decision. The Congress has not allowed the Catalan representatives to defence their arguments.
22 00 GMT
The Catalan federation has abandoned the FIRS congress and are getting ready to talk to the press in brief.
Meantime, Oliveras de la Riva thinks that after this decision the Catalan teams, 12 out of 14 in the Spanish league, might decide to creat their own European league.
This would mean the end of the Spanish federations. We must remember that 98% of the roller hockey players in the Spanish league are Catalans.
22 30 GMT
In press conference the Catalan representatives together with the former president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva, have criticised the manners in which the voting has taken place.
The Congress asked its members to vote whether they disagreed with the decision taken by the Committee, since the vote was not secret the implications of this were highlighted by the Catalans.
Ramon Basiana, president of the Catalan federation, has accused the members of the Spanish federation of being racist towards the Catalans.
Isidro Oliveras, former president of the FIRS has explained that because he is no longer the president of the FIRS he is now free to fully speak his mind.
First he has apologised for the behaviour and the way the Congress has been ruled. Oliveras has stated that the FIRS constitution has been infringed in many ways.
In addition he has offered his services and help to the Catalan federation and has congratulated the Catalan federation for the way they have dealt with the controversy at all time.
Jean Louis Dupont, the lawyer of the Catalan federation has explained that he was told by the Spanish representatives that he could not speak and defence the Catalan arguments since he was not Spanish.
Dupont has read a letter in which the Spanish government confirmed that the federations were private institutions and therefore the government couldn't interfere in any way with any decision taken on this matter. Dupont has affirmed that despite that letter they have proof of pressures made by the Spanish government to different federations.
Listen to it live at RAC1:
A grave President Oliveras speaking to the international press on November 25, 2004, after the FIRS Executive Committee reversed their provisional recognition of the Catalonian Federation, a decision he believes will negatively affect the future of the sport of traditional roller hockey.
On November 25, 2004, the Executive Committee of the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) reversed the provisional recognition they granted to the Catalonian Roller Sports Federation at the March 2004 FIRS Congress in Miami, Florida.
That decision was made after the Executive Committee considered a protest filed by the Spanish Federation. The Spanish Federation disagreed with the recognition of the Catalonian Federation because Catalonia is a region within Spain.
President Oliveras announced the decision at a November 25, 2004 press conference in Fresno, California, and after he spoke, both the Spanish and Catalonian Federations made formal statements to the press.
I was present at the press conference, but I must be careful about what I report because the press conference was in Spanish, and my understanding of the Spanish language is limited. The information I am reporting here came from press conference attendees on both sides of the situation who were kind enough to try and keep me informed about what was being said.
Here is my understanding of the current situation, based on my discussions with journalists at the press conference:
-The March 2004 FIRS decision to provisionally recognize Catalonia was reversed by the FIRS Executive Committee after a protest filed by the Spanish Federation was considered.
-Isidro Oliveras, the president of FIRS announced that he will present his resignation at the FIRS Annual Congress on November 26, 2004. President Oliveras does not believe the Catalonia recognition should have been reversed, and he believes the admission of the Catalonian Federation would have helped to revive the dying sport of traditional roller hockey.
-The Catalonian Federation plans to present an appeal at the FIRS Congress on November 26, 2004, asking the Congress to overturn the decision made by the Executive Committee on November 25, and reinstate the provisional recognition of Catalonia.
Excellent report Kathie!
Link and pictures:
Ferreira has stated that: "the governments of South America have contacted the different federations to ask them to vote agaisnt the recognition of Catalonia. I was asked by my government to vote against Catalonia, I believe that some agreements have been signed between Spain and Colombia."
Apparently after further instigations by the Spanish goevernment, Ferreira will be asked to resign after his comments. His resignation will take place next week.
All the Catalan political parties, except the Partido Popular (a right-wing spanish nationalist party), unions and other civil organisations have confirmed their support to the demonstration that will start at 19 00 in front of the Delegation of the Spanish government in Barcelona (next to the Estacio de Franca railstation).
If you live in Catalonia, GO OUT AND DEMONSTRATE!!!!!!!!!!
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is an institution independent of any sports organization which provides for services in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sports world.
Dupont has stated that: "the Swiss law and the CAS don't like dirty games being played against any federation. What has just been done to the Catalan federation is not on and they will have to pay for this. Catalonia followed all the rules and made their move always within the law. In the middle of a game the FIRS has just modified the rules and this is not right".
The argument of the Spaniards is that to be able to appeal against any decision taken by the Executive Committe you have to be a member of the FIRS and since the provisional admission of the Catalan federation was invalidated yesterday, the Catalans would not have the right to appeal.
According to Jean Louis Dupont, the Catalan federation lawyer, there has been infringements of the law, such as denying the right to defense and breaching the FIRS statutes.
Dupont believes that only the General Assembly of the FIRS has the right to admit or expel any new members.
Although the General Secretary of the FIRS, the Italian Roberto Marotta hasn't been very receptive at the beginning, he has finally admitted the appeal and therefore the case will be discussed again in the General Assembly that will begin this afternoon GMT.
The Catalan lawyers Jean Louis Dupont and have been working since yesterday in an appeal that will be presented in the FIRS annual congress later today.
The FIRS congress can overrule any decision taking by the Executive Commitee and there is where the Catalans base their hopes in.
If only one federation asks for a voting to ratify the decision taking by the committee the congress will have to vote. Then if 51% of the votes are against the decision of the Executive Committee, Catalonia will have to be included in the list of federations provisionally admitted and will have another chance to become a full member.
It is likely that at least one federation asks for this voting (maybe Andorra), but it seems very difficult to get the 51% of the votes in the later voting.
Again let's wait and see...
Thursday, November 25, 2004
The FIRS Executive Committee is in a meeting at this moment. The Spanish federation has presented a document or a letter and for this reason the president of the FIRS, Isidro Oliveras is having a one-to-one meeting with the president of the Spanish federation, Garcia Raposo.
Apparently, the Spanish and the Catalan federation will not present their arguments in front of the Executive Committee.
The Spanish federation complained about one of the representatives that was going to defend the Catalan federation, Mr Dupont.
The Executive Committee of the FIRS has decided that they know everything they have to know about the issue and therefore they will take a decision based on the information that they already have.
The president of the Catalan Federation, Ramon Basiana thinks that the Executive Committee will decide against the appeal of the Spanish federation and therefore the final decision will be made at the annual meeting of the FIRS that will take place tomorrow.
Oliveras, Basiana and Jean-Louis Dupont are having a meeting at this moment.
Rumours are that the Executive Committee has voted and the results are negative for Catalonia. 6-3 or 5-4 for the appeal of the Spanish federation.
The Italian representatives have stated that they have accepted the Spanish appeal by 6 votes to 3.
Other rumours are that there has not been a voting yet.
Jean Louis Dupont is the lawyer that changed the world of sport with the "Bosman Law". He is acting as delegate of the Catalan Federation
The document presented by the Catalan Federation was based in the law of sport and prepared by Jean Louis Dupont. According to that document, the Spanish appeal wouldn't be valid as the admission of the Catalan federation was only provisional. There could only be an appeal against a permanent decision.
The Italian representative has stated that ther will not be a voting in the meeting tomorrow.
Garcia Raposo has been seen congratulating the Colombian member of the Executive Committee.
It looks like Spain has won the appeal.
The president of the FIRS is still in a meeting with the president of the Catalan federation and with Jean Louis Dupont.
Apparently the Colombian member of the Committee has settled the draw. Previous information indicated that the Colombian representative was going to vote against the Spanish appeal.
The Australian member has also voted against the Catalans.
The Colombian member after huggin the Spanish president has been seen saying : "whatever you need from us..."
It looks like the Executive Committee voted whithout the knowledge of the President of the F FIRS, Isidro Oliveras.
Ramon Basiana says that they are waiting for an official communication from the FIRS.
It appears that the decision of the Executive Committee has been to invalidate the decision taken last March in Miami in which the FIRS provisionally admited the Catalan Federation. This is the reason why they haven't even heard the arguments of both federations.
We can confirm that the voting has taken place without the knowledge of the president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva.
The argument now is whether this is legal or not according to the FIRS statutes.
Jean Louis Dupont is in conversations with the Spanish federation lawyer.
The Executive Committee is still reunited.
The Catalan Secretary of Sport, Rafel Niubo, has stated that they are still unaware of the official decision.
He has confirmed that they will present an appeal at the FIRS annual meeting that will take place tomorrow.
The Catalan federation might be considering filling an appeal against this decision.
It looks like there has been a rebellion against the president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva, and the members have decided to invalidate the provisional admission of Catalonia that took place last March in Miami.
It is known by everyone that the Italian member, Sabatino Aracu, has personal disagreements with Oliveras de la Riva and wants to be the new president of the FIRS.
We still haven't got an official confirmation.
The president of the Spanish federation Garcia Raposo and the president of the Catalan Ramon Basiana, have just entered the room where the FIRS Executive Committee is reunited.
The members of the Spanish federation are celebrating the decision although they say that they will wait until the president of the FIRS makes official the results.
The president of the Catalan federation, Ramon Basiana has explained that the Executive Committee of the FIRS has decided to invalidate the provisional admission of the Catalan federation.
The Executive Committee has not even considered the appeal from the Spanish federation nor the arguments from the Catalans.
The president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva, in press conference has confirmed that the Committee has decided to invalidate the provisional admission of the FIRS that was presented in Miami last March,
Some members who had voted for the admission of Catalonia, had demanded a revision of that decision and after that revision and the following discussion, the Executive Committee of the FIRS had decided to invalidate such decision.
Oliveras has confirmed that the Gibraltar federation request has also been rejected.
Finally, Oliveras has made public his resignation that he will present in the FIRS annual meeting tomorrow.
He still believes though, that the sport of roller hockey is dying and that the admission of the Catalan federation would have been a great boost for the recovery of the roller hockey.
Gibraltar, a British colony, has a total of 12 federations recognised internationally, although Bermuda is the British colony with more federations, a total of 31.
We must remember that Spain also opposed the admission of Gibraltar into the FIFA by threating to withdraw all the spanish teams for every FIFA competition.
I thought the Spanish inquisition was dead and buried!!!
Basiana, who is in Fresno since last Sunday, thinks that: “It is this optimism and hopes what has brought us here”. According to Basiana, the provisional admission of Catalonia last March, was taken within the legality of the FIRS and therefore there shouldn’t be any reason why the Spanish appeal should be filed.
Surprisingly Basiana believes that the recognition of Catalonia would also be beneficial for Spain since: “there would be more sportsmen and resources that would eventually represent the Spanish kingdom, some with the Spanish federation and some with the Catalan federation. I know it might be hard to understand from a political point of view, but this shouldn’t be a political issue but a sportive one.”
In addition, Basiana has criticised the Spanish Olympic Committee COE, for their decision of starting a disciplinary action against the president of the FIRS, Oliveras de la Riva: “instead of trying to start a dialog between both sides the COE have decided to discipline a man who has done loads for the world of roller sport in the past years. It does not surprise me though, since they also started a disciplinary on me just for expressing my opinions”
Basiana believes that a possible game Spain v Catalonia would hugely benefit the world of roller hockey as it would be comparable to other big rivalry games such as England v Scotland or Barca v Madrid.
Finally, thinks that it would be a real shame if Oliveras resigns as result of the no admission of Catalonia as he has been a real asset for the world of roller sports and has made enormous steps in its final recognition as an Olympic discipline.
Source: Europa Press
The first place trophy in the show skating competition at the 2004 Roller Figure Skating World Championships was a show team from an artistic roller skating team in the town of Olot in the Catalonian region of Spain.
The theme of the world championship performance was "Freedom" and for those in the audience who were familiar with the FIRS/Catalonia situation the performance of these skaters from Olot felt like a gut-wrenching, heartfelt, last minute plea to the international skating community to allow the Catalonian Roller Sports Federation to be confirmed as a member of the International Roller Sports Federation. That decision will be made at the 2004 FIRS Congress in Fresno on November 26, 2004.
What else do they need to realise what Catalonia wants?
Reported by Kathie Fry in Fresno.
Link and picture:
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Executive Committee meeting will begin at 09 00 (local time), midnight (Paris time).
In this meeting the appeal from the Spanish federation will be discussed and the representatives of the Spanish Federation, Enrique Garcia Raposo, will present his arguments at 14 30 for fifteen minutes. After this, Ramon Basiana, president of the Catalan Federation will expose his arguments for fifteen minutes as well.
Finally, the Executive Committee, which will not have his Japanese member Yoshiro Noguchi due to illness, will deliberate and make a final decision.
Three scenarios are possible:
1st The Spanish appeal wins: In that case, Oliveras will present his unconditional resignation.
2nd The Spanish appeal is not accepted: The General Assembly on Friday will have to vote whether or not to recognise Catalonia.
3rd A draw: In that case, Oliveras will have to settle that draw. Oliveras will vote agaisnt the Spanish appeal.
The FIRS General Assembly on Friday will also start at 9 00 (local time).
The arguments for and against the admission of Catalonia will be exposed to all the FIRS members.
Then the admission of another set of federations ( Bulgaria, Georgia, Honduras, Iran, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Romania, Bosnia, Turkey, Gibraltar and Paraguay) will be voted as a whole, however, the case of Catalonia, Canada and Costa Rica will be voted individually.
If 2 federations ask for the voting to be secret it will be so.
Around 16 00 (local time), the Assembly will have decided if Catalonia is finally recognised as a full member. If this does not happen, Oliveras will present his unconditional resignation...
... and the Catalan dream will remain as that, just a beautiful dream!
Monday, November 22, 2004
Prior to this, on Thursday, the FIRS will have to discuss an appeal made by the Spanish Federation against the provisional admission of the Catalans that was granted last March in the FIRS meeting in Miami.
There are 12 members in the FIRS Executive Committee who will decide whether to accept or not the Spanish appeal on Thursday 25th.
The members of the FIRS Executive Committee are:
President: Isidro Oliveras de la Riva (ESP)
1st Vice-president: Ernesto Gonzalez Molina (ARG)
General Secretary/Artistisc: Roberto Marotta (ITA)
Speed: James Pollard (USA)
Inline hockey: George Pickard (USA)
Hockey: Harro Strucksberg (GER)
Europe: Sabatino Aracu (ITA)
Asia: Yoshiro Noguchi (JPN)
America: Carlos Orlando Ferreira (COL)
Australasia: Valerie Leftwitch (AUS)
Africa: Dr. Nabih el Alkamy (EGY)
All these members, with the exception of Sabatino Aracu, Yoshiro Noguchi and Dr. Nabih el Alkamy, were present in the last committee in which Catalonia was provisionally admitted to the FIRS.
As the conditions in which Catalonia was admitted have remained the same in the past 8 months, there shouldn't be any powerful reason why the Spanish appeal would be accepted.
However, Sabatino Aracu, who has expressed his interest in becoming the next president of the FIRS, has publicly critised Oliveras over the way that decision was taken and has also admitted that he is against the recognition of Catalonia. Aracu is a member of the Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, and he is expected to lead the vote against Catalonia.
Oliveras will only vote in case of a draw.
If the decision is not to accept the appeal then the final step will take place on Friday 26th at the FIRS Annual meeting.
34 countries have confirmed their attendance. The countries will have as many votes as roller sport disciplines recognised in those countries.
Confirmed countries (in brackets no of votes):
Australia (5), Colombia (5), Spain (5), USA (5), France (5), Italy (5), Japan (5), Mexico (5), UK (5), Switzerland (5), Germany (4), Argentina (4), Brazil (4), Canada (4), Chile (4), China (4), Holland (4), India (4), Portugal (4), New Zealand (4), Taiwan (4), Belgium (3), Croatia (3), Cuba (3), Denmark (3), Ecuador (3), Slovenia (3), Dominican Republic (3), Andorra (3), Angola (3), Nigeria (2), Panama (2), Paraguay (2) and Peru (2).
The voting will be secret if this is asked by 10% of the votes, which means that there are only 2 countries needed to ask for this for the voting to be secret.
A secret vote will mean that each represented will be able to vote without any pressure since no one will ever know who voted what. This is seen as an important advantage by the Catalans.
However the pressures from the Spanish government through the Spanish Council for Sport CSD, has been strong over the past weeks.
It seems that strong European countries such as Italy, Portugal or France will have agreed with the Spaniards to vote against the Catalans. The secretary of the CSD, Rafael Blanco, recently travelled around South America to convince some south American countries to vote against Catalonia. On the 8th of November, Spain and Argentina agreed to sign a cooperation agreement for the year 2005.
These countries, apart from the arguments exposed by the Spaniards, will see Catalonia as a threat to their dominance in roller hockey.
On the other hand, the Catalans seem to have the support of small south American and African countries on top of Andorra.
Although not many countries have expressed their preferences, some believe that the recognition of Catalonia would benefit a sport that is dying everywhere but in Catalonia where every week twice as many games are played as they are played anywhere else in the world.
The final decision....in 5 days!!!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
The team from Olot with the performance titled "Freedom" has won the Show Skating World Championships.
Alba Perez has won the Junior Free Skating (short and long) competition and finished second in the combined event.
Manel Perez finished fourth, second and second in the Junior figures, free skating and combined respectively, whereas Carles Gasset finished third in free skating.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
With only 7 days to the FIRS meeting, I think it'd be a good time to express how are you feeling. What do you think is going to happen? What would you like to happen?
Please email me or post any comments and I will link them to this "Inside my mind" post.
1. Marc, a hockey lover:
The most powerful man in roller skating says that Catalonia has met all the requirements in order to become a full member of the FIRS. Although Oliveras is in the line of fire, he seems to be managing the situation very well.
Oliveras is aware of the importance of this and is trying to avoid the various political pressures. He is convinced that the roller sport will benefit hugely from the incorporation of Catalonia.
For this reason, he explained to all the members of the FIRS committee what his position was in this issue and now he is receiving the criticism of the Spanish nationalism and the Spanish Olympic Committee has started a disciplinary action against him.
What is your reaction to the disciplinary action started by the COE?
I think it is normal. The COE is a private body and has the right to start any disciplinary action. Is it fair? I do not know. I have no criteria, it is their decision and I respect it.
What has changed since the provisional recognition of Catalonia last March?
Nothing substantial has changed. The conditions remain the same and Catalonia was admitted because they had met all the requirements of the FIRS.
The only thing that has changed is the media and the political interest. I think that this is a good thing if it means talking more about our sport.
Is your opinion still the same?
What was the purpose of the letter you sent to the members of the FIRS Executive Committee ?
I wanted them to know my ideas with regards to this issue, and I sent that letter 12 days before so they would have enough time to analyse the situation.
As a president, it is my duty to explain to my colleagues what I think.
I am sure that Joan Laporta (FC Barcelona president) would give his opinion on whether Barca has to sign Ronaldinho or not. Then the other vice-presidents can say whether they agree or not.
I am not a judge that has to be neutral. The fact the Spanish press got hold of that letter can be considered an act of disloyalty by someone in my committee.
Have you received any pressures during the last week?
Will you vote during the Executive Commission in which the appeal of the Spanish federation will be considered?
No, the vote of the president will only be used to settle a possible draw.
What do you think it will happen in that Executive Commission meeting?
I have no idea. We will let everyone expose their ideas, but I have to emphasise that things haven’t changed since last March when Catalonia was provisionally admitted to the the FIRS.
It would be a contradiction to change our mind now.
Is this the most important issue you have had to face since you became president of the FIRS?Definitely not. Maybe the one with the most media interest, but in my many years as a president I have dealt with more important issues.
You talk about being president for so many years, are you considering announcing your resignation?
Clearly, if my colleagues don’t support my ideas, it will not be possible for me to continue as president. My continuity is linked to the final decision on the Catalan issue.
Why do you think it is good for the FIRS that Catalonia becomes a full member?
Because they meet all the requirements and because it is always good to add up, especially when we talk about a first class country in roller hockey where more than 400 games are played every weekend. The roller hockey sport is dying because from 43 national teams that played the last world cup we only have 30 now.
The survival of roller hockey might depend on the recognition of Catalonia and that is why I support 100% the admission of Catalonia as full member.
Do you understand the position of the president of the Spanish federation Enrique Garcia Raposo?
Totally, he defends his position and although I understand it, I don’t share his opinion.
Can you see a Catalonia v Spain?Why not?
I can’t see a reason why that game couldn’t be played.
The Spanish government say that the law doesn’t allow it, but the FIRS is a private body, that has its own regulations and the Catalan federation is within those regulations.
We cannot rule ourselves by the rules of all the different countries. Besides, the laws change over time and I can’t see a reason why this law could not be changed.
How is your relation with the Spanish Sport Council (CSD)?
Excellent. Jaime Lissavetzki, Rafael Blanco and Manolo Fonseca, are all very dialogant people. I have no problems with them.
It wasn’t like that with the previous Spanish Sport Council, was it?
The problem was not with the CSD. There was no dialog with the Secretary, Juan Antonio Gómez-Angulo.
He called me “bad Spaniard” and “miserable” but that is part of the past.
Oliveras adds that he has taken the decision very well and thinks that the COE has the right to take their own decisions if these are legitimate.
Finally, Oliveras states that he has no idea whether this will be the previous step before his final expulsion as a member of the COE and confirms that he will present his resignation if Catalonia is not admitted as a full member of the FIRS.
Whatever the final resolution of the FIRS is, the Catalan people should be more than grateful to this man, who has showed honesty and integrity in these difficult moments.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The resolution also demands respect for all those sport women and men who express their wish to represent Catalonia instead of Spain.
The COE have decided that Oliveras' beliefs constitute a "serious disciplinary infraction".
In order to start the proceedings against Oliveras, the Executive Committee of the COE has named as instructor, Marco Antonio Rioja, president of the COE's Legal Commission, and the secretary to be Julio González Ronco, secretary of the COE'S Legal Commission.
See my post on Wednesday 10th of November, for Oliveras' statement about the admission of Catalonia.
It didn't take long for the criticisms to begin!
Note that Oliveras has been disciplined "only" for being brave and honest and make his beliefs public.
In my opinion they should be ashamed of themselves.
Monday, November 15, 2004
The Catalan team are double European Champions and gained the bronze medal in the last world cup in Argentina and are also clear favourites in this tournament.
Even though Catalonia is a provisional member of the FIRS and the team could have represented the Catalan Roller Skating Federation, in order to avoid any controversy just a few days before the FIRS annual meeting, they accepted to represent Spain and the Spanish federation. However, all the costs are funded by the Catalan federation and no funded has been granted from the Spanish federation.
Another team of the catalan city of Reus will also be present in this World Championship.
Full list of participants:
Monica Gimeno (Junior Women's Figures, Free Skating and Combined)
Alba Perez (Junior Women's Figures, Free Skating and Combined)
Manel Perez (Junior Men's Figures, Free Skating and Combined)
Carles Gasset (Junior Men's Free Skating)
Albert Trilla (Senior Men's Figures, Free Skating and Combined)
Laura Sanchez (Senior Women's Free Skating)
Tamara Valderrama (Senior Women's Free Skating)
C.P.A Olot "Freedom"
Anna ANGLADA, Mireia BONFILL, Ada CASAS, Susanna CONDE, Ester FABREGA, Mireia GARCIA, Gemma JOU, Carla JUVANTENY, Imma JUVANTENY, Marta JUVANTENY, Elisabeth MANEL, Olga MARTI, Laura MIR, Coral MOISET, Laura PUIGDEMONT, Anna QUINTANA, Laura RUIZ, Sandra SALA, Anna TORRENT, Anna TRIFON, Maria VALENCIA, Anna VILA, Marta VILA,
Manager: Miquel CASAS
Coach: Ricard PLANIOL, Manel JUVANTENY
Choreographer: Lourdes RIGAT
C.P Reus "Phenomenon Gaudi"
From here we wish them all the luck on this major championship!!!
Sunday, November 14, 2004
It is 8 months old but still relevant for a few reasons: it is the only article that has appeared in the British press until now, and it is interesting to note the relaxed tone and easy approach to the issue and also the comparison that is made between Catalonia and Scotland and Wales.
Catalonia gets its skates on
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Wednesday March 31, 2004
Catalonia has won a small victory in its historic battle for recognition as a national entity separate from Spain.
A decision by the International Roller Skating Federation to allow a Catalan national team into the qualifying rounds of the roller-hockey world cup this summer has been greeted with jubilation by many Catalans. It introduces a new national anthem and a new flag to international sport.
But it has provoked an angry response from Spain's outgoing conservative government of José María Aznar, a fierce opponent of further autonomy for the eastern region. The government has said it will block the move as the thin end of the wedge for Spanish national teams in all sports as well as a threat to a unified Spain.
The decision has to be ratified in November, but Catalan teams are expected to play in the meantime.
Leaders of Catalonia's semi-autonomous government said that roller skating had opened the door to world recognition that their country, like Scotland or Wales, could be treated, on the sports field at least, as a nation in its own right.
Ever since the 15th century Catalonia has resisted incorporation into the Spanish state and its language and culture; under Franco, use of the Catalan language was banned in public.
Remarkable neutral approach to the controversy.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
From Argentina the webmaster of PatinCarrera.com Guido Ferraiuolo, has made statements on many public message boards in October of 2004 stating that if the Catalonian Roller Sports Federation is recognized by the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not allow any roller sport to admitted into the Olympic Games.
Ferraiuolo in some of his statements compares Catalonia to California and states that : "a negative consequence to recognize Catalonia (a region of Spain) is that speed skating is not an Olympic Sport. The Olympic Committee has already told that our sport will not be admitted in the case of the International Federation would recognize a region of a country as a member."
Ferraiuolo adds: "Obviously, we will need to be helped by Mr. Roberto Marotta, President of CIC and General Secretary of FIRS. As we know, we are not the only new sport that wants to cross the line and finally be in the Olympic family. The other members of the CIC, the President of the National Federation and all the Associations in Fresno should work in the same way to obtain what we are working for and to turn on the dream of thousands or skaters worldwide."
However Ferraiuolo has not given the source of his information nor which member of the IOC said that the admission of Catalonia would have a negative impact in the recognition of any roller sport for the Olympic games.
On the other hand, Kathie Fry one of the most prestigious web editors of inline skating (www.skatelog.com) , roller skating editor for the Open Directory project and contributor writer to Fitness and Speed Skating Times Magazine and USA Roller Sports Magazine , voices out her doubts about Ferraiuolo statements.
Kathie Fry suggests that Isidro Oliveras, the president of FIRS and many other FIRS officers and committee members have close ties with the International Olympic Committee, including the president of the IOC and therefore they know better than anyone else what the IOC's opinion is about FIRS recognizing Catalonia as a separate federation with its own team.
Fry does not believe FIRS would prevent roller sports from getting into the Olympics just so Catalonia can have its own roller hockey team. Furthermore, she gives two important reasons, the first one being that it would be very difficult for the FIRS to explain to the public opinion that roller sports would not become Olympic so Catalonia can be recognised, and the second one being purely financial, since the FIRS will significantly get an increase in funding if any roller sport becomes an official Olympic event.
Looks like the diplomatic relations between Spain and Argentina have worked very well so far...
Oliveras considers that a negative vote against the recognition of Catalonia would imply a lack of confidence and trust in the FIRS Central Committee who provisionally admitted Catalonia last March.
In addition, Oliveras believes that the inclusion of Catalonia as full member would be an important step for the FIRS since "roller hockey is dying internationally, whereas in Catalonia it is a growing sport with over 400 hockey games played every weekend for only 130 played anywhere else in the world".
Oliveras is definitely making a move forward here. It is nice to see someone who is willing to take risks for his own principles. Thank you!
Friday, November 12, 2004
Pontofinalmacau.com points out that regardless of the political connotations that this issue has, the final decision will be made by a private organisation (FIRS) and will be a sportive one.
Even Macau, that will play the World Cup instead of Catalonia if this is not recognised , has noticed the dirty politics that are being used by the Spaniards.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
With only 16 days left until the next FIRS assembly which will be held in Fresno, Mr Oliveras believes it is his duty as president to let the members of the FIRS know his opinion.
According to Europa Press, in his email Mr Oliveras explains that Catalonia has more political status than other federations such as Macau, Scotland, Wales, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Feroe Islands or Puerto Rico. These federations, Oliveras adds, are recognised by the IFAA which is one of the most important federations in sport.
Oliveras describes how Catalonia has its own Government, president, prime minister, international representation, laws, taxes, police, language and culture. In addition he states that the Catalan federation has offered to organise the 2009 roller sports world-cup in all the disciplines.
Oliveras expands on some political aspects of Catalonia like the fact that Catalonia is recognised in the Spanish Constitution as an historical nationality within the Kingdom of Spain.
Finally, Oliveras adds that he is not interested in politics but in sport and that what is good for roller sports is good for him and the admission of Catalonia, as he has stated in previous occasions, would be an important gain for the rolling sport.
Oliveras considers that it is now that he has to explain what he thinks and defends the legality of the decision to recognise the national federation of Catalonia, as it follows the laws of the FIRS.
In addition, as an example he explains that in 1992, the federation of Macao qualified for the 1992 games, but the IOC prevented them to participate because they were not a State (then it belonged to Portugal). "I defended the Federation of Macao because I thought, as I think now, that that federation was good for the world of roller sports. In spite of its political status (now a Chinese department) they are good and I will always fight for this federation".
How much criticism is Isidro Oliveras going to receive from his own beliefs?
We will just have to sit and wait...
Source: Europa Press
Thanks to Marc.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
"We have to act with discretion - Rafael Blanco, General director of the CSD, says. But the Spanish federation with the endorsement of the government is moving with diligence to avoid the recognition of Catalonia and therefore make sure that law is followed."
Are the Spaniards admitting they are using "dirty politics" again?
The optimism of the Spanish leader is based on the appeal that the Spanish Federation of Skating will present in the Congress of the FIRS to prevent Catalonia facing Spain in the next roller hockey World Cup.
Are these the ones proclaiming that this should only be a sportive issue and no a politics one?
Saturday, November 06, 2004
The news site tgcom.it comments about the last words of Spain's Prime minister Mr Zapatero in which he stated that there will never be a game between Spain and Catalonia.
Tgcom.it's article is very sympathetic with the Catalans : "A beautiful dream for who does not see the hour to be true, that is the participation of the Catalan side in the A World Cup. A participation that the square would not only want as political acknowledgment of an ethnic minority, but also as deservedly earned the field. In fact the Catalans, won recently the B World-Cup in Macao, achieving the right to participate in the A World-Cup"
Ilmanifesto.it opens up with Catalan's roller hockey coach, Jordi Camps' words: " the most important thing is that we have maintained our compromise towards our country". Then the victory in the B World Cup is compared to some big wins of the Catalan football team although these have always been in friendly games. Il manifesto states that with the B World Cup title in their pockets, the Catalans have earned the right to participate in the next A Wolrd-Cup and to play against Spain, since both teams have been drawn in the same group. This fact, according to Il manifesto, has set off a huge political row between Spain and Catalonia. While the Catalans are proud and enjoying their celebrating mood, the Spaniards have started another nationalistic battle to preserve the unity of Spain.
thanks to: http://catxipanda.splinder.com/
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Ramon Basiana (Catalunya) and Garcia Raposo (Spain) exposed their arguments for and against the recognition of Catalunya.
Garcia Raposo's tone was arrogant and authoritarian and his arguments were mainly based on nationalistic and politics views of Spain.
Raposo's arguments against the recognition of Catalonia:
- The Spanish federation hasn't seen the official request of the admission of Catalonia
- The recognition wasn't in the FIRS agenda
- The FIRS members weren't told the truth
- Outside Spain no one knows Catalonia, all they know is Spain
- The president of the FIRS is a Catalan and that was the main reason why Catalonia was provisionally admited.
Basiana's arguments for the recognition of Catalonia:
- The statute of the FIRS allows nations without state to become permanent members and therefore compete internationally
- Catalonia is a strong power in roller hockey and the whole world of hockey would benefit from the admission of Catalonia
- 48 nations without state are represented in international federations of a wide range of sports
- the Spanish law says that only the Spanish national team can represent Spain but Catalonia only wants to represent itself.
- Catalonia is not against anyone. It's all about a sentiment and the freedom to represent the country that you feel you belong to.
Listen to the interview: http://www.elsesports.net/tvcmult/163848667.rm
All the games that Catalonia played were broadcasted live by the second Catalan television channel, “el 33”, apart from the final that was shown live by the first Catalan television channel TV3.
The average audience for the seven games was of 74 000 spectators which is a very large number for a Roller hockey game.
According to TV3, the only TV station in broadcasting hockey games in Catalonia (no Spanish TV is showing any game nor highlights at the moment), the average audience for a hockey game is about 30 000 spectators, therefore the audience during the World Cup was more than acceptable, especially if we consider that all the games were played in the morning.
Another evidence of the importance that Roller hockey has in Catalonia!
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Speaking to the Spanish Congress, Zapatero has ensured that Catalonia will never play against Spain because this would go against the Spanish law.
...and I wonder: has the Spanish law anything to do with a private institution like the FIRS?
Haven't they (the spaniards) been defending all time that this should be a sportive issue nor a political one?
How can the prime minister rule out something before even been voted?
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Mr Strucksberg has stated that "from a sportive point of view everything is very clear. We want to admit Catalonia as a full member of the FIRS as this would give an enormous boost to our sport."
Nevertheless, Mr Strucksberg has critised the massive political pressure that the Spaniards are putting over the national federations which goes against the ambitions of the CIRH.
"I am completely for the recognition of Catalonia as they are a very strong team and due to the fact that spanish roller hockey is mainly made up of Catalans"
Strucksberg thinks however, that in the long run the final decision will be political and not sportive.
Source: Portal do diario de Macau
The extra sporting celebration of Catalonia contrasts with the impolitic hysteria in Madrid which want to organise the 2012 Olympics with their racist attitude.
Catalonia has won the World B Roller Hockey Championship with 76 goals scored and one against, a Chinese penalty. But high flying politics are not far removed from sticks on wheels. The final was against England, the ally who betrayed Catalonia in 1713 and Perfidious Albion received 17 goals.
The Madrid bombs liar Angel Acebes bombards Pasqual Maragall for going to Macao: "He had himself photographed with independence flags and when asked whether Catalonia is Spain he answered Catalonia is Catalonia, He headed a disgraceful spectacle." PP spokesman Eduardo Zaplana finds the Catalan team "pointless. This would not happen in a serious country. Those who believe it is just a hockey game are quite wrong." Collaborator Josep Pique ends the fascist cries: "Especially serious is that the president of Catalonia foresees a match between Catalonia and Spain as though these were different realities."
The three party government of Catalonia defends the sporting success. Former communist Joan Saura: "It should be a matter of pride and not a problem." Chief Minister Josep Bargallo of Esquerra: "Queen Elizabeth II is not scandalised seeing England-Wales nor the president of China with China-Macao." Socialist Pasqual Maragall: "In this sport practically invented in Catalonia we also deserve that people can say our team is the best."
Catalonia fields 800 teams, the most in the world, 12 out of 16 in the Spanish league and the entire Spanish team is Catalan. PSC spokesman Miquel Iceta proposes a mestizo mix with the worse placed team withdrawing. The writing is on the wall for Madrid. The day they field no Catalans, they will be relegated to provincial tournaments.
The final approval of Catalonia now awaits in Fresno, California, this November. Sports secretary Rafel Niubo: "It is a sports question. We are not asking for independence or a seat in the U.N. The rules must be applied which state that countries without a State are also members." One third of the international federation are countries without a State. Maragall points out the United Kingdom fields four teams, the same as China: "Catalonia, which is not the Spanish State, and England, which is not Great Britain, played the final. I don't see why we cannot have a Catalonia team if we are the best. It is no problem, just sports, and the day Catalonia plays against Spain they will have a great time. It is a question of freedom of expressing a feeling of sports and nationality which is compatible with mutual respect." Barcelona coach Carlos Figueroa defends the sport: "The admittance of Catalonia in the international arena will be very good for hockey, unlike the war which has just started. It would be great to see Spain against Catalonia. The underlying debate is the political model for the Spanish State." The sons of fascism have evolved more than neofascist PP. Camilo Alonso Vega, Hong Kong consul and son of the governor of Barcelona, stood up for the Catalan national hymn and had himself photographed, just like Maragall, with the players showing independence flags. Exactly on the 25th anniversary of the Statute of Autonomy Sant Jaume Square filled up to receive the champions with the cry: "One team, one nation." Captain Ivan Tibau said from the government balcony: "We put the first stone but other sports will also get this far. They should learn from us!" Maragall has become scared of the Catalan success says Joaquin Luna in La Vanguardia: "There were two parties, one institutional inside and the popular party in the square. Significantly the first was led by Maragall and the second from the balcony by Bargallo. This division of roles fuelled the cries of Maragall collaborator! Maragall had his picture, accepted a signed shirt and disappeared from the scene." Jordi Pujol was never so afraid of Catalans. In the Madrid 2012 Games we should see a Spain-Catalonia in the final. Better two medals than one after the good fun on the road to Macao.
source: racocatala.com J.Verges
Monday, November 01, 2004
By RENWICK McLEAN
Published: August 30, 2004
LLEIDA, Spain, Aug. 23 - In its eyes, Catalonia, the dynamic region that is contained in Spain but yearning for self-rule, is a wallflower at the Olympics. "We don't feel at all represented by the Spanish team," said Daniel Rovira, a bartender, as he watched a local soccer game on television, rather than the final of the men's 100-meter dash at the Athens Games. "We have our own language, our own culture.'' Nationalism flows thick in this ancient city of 120,000, a gateway between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. But that nationalism comes wrapped in the Catalan flag, not in Spain's. In his restaurant down the road from Mr. Rovira's bar, Jaume Areste Alonso switched the television from the Olympics to the same soccer game, the Catalonia Cup, a match between Barcelona and a crosstown rival, Espanyol - a preseason game at that. Mr. Areste Alonso said the Olympics would interest more people if Catalonia could compete with its own team. "It may take awhile, but the day will come," he said. "One hundred percent of the people here support it." Until then, sports fanatics from semiautonomous regions like Catalonia are sure to feel a little left out when they watch the Olympics, which brings together teams from about 200 countries, some as tiny as St. Kitts and Nevis. For these fans, the sense of local pride is as strong as their national identity is weak. That means that the athletic contests are not limited to the playing field, but enter into politics. During the four-decade dictatorship of Franco, regional languages and cultural celebrations were banned, so rooting for the Barcelona soccer team became a proxy for Catalan pride, one reason there is such a strong feeling about elevating regional teams. Some Catalans, like Mr. Rovira, the bartender, support full independence for Catalonia, but his is not a mainstream view. Sports is another matter. Catalans have gathered more than a million signatures calling for Catalans to have their own national team, he said. Convergència i Unió, a mainstream party in Catalonia, which does not advocate independence, says it will send Parliament a bill next month that will call on the national government to drop its opposition to allowing teams from Catalonia to compete internationally; the 16 other regions of Spain would get the same rights. In the Basque region, a largely autonomous area across the peninsula from Catalonia, a political party says it will propose similar legislation. "It's our dream, but it's also our right," said Josep Maldonado, a congressman who is leading the efforts for the Convergència party. In a telephone interview from Athens, where he had traveled to cheer on Catalan athletes representing Spain in the Olympics, Mr. Maldonado said proudly that "Catalonia is the world champion in high mountain races," referring to marathons at high altitudes. It also has been granted provisional membership in the International Federation of Roller Sports, he said. But in most sports, including soccer, the central government lobbies the governing federations to oppose the inclusion of Catalan teams, he said. The only way to stop the lobbying is through legislation, Mr. Maldonado said. Catalonia, like Spain's other regions, has substantial autonomy from Madrid, but is pushing for more from the new Socialist government. Political analysts say the government will have a difficult job satisfying them without loosening the political bonds that keep Spain a unified nation, not only at the Olympics. The International Olympics Committee may not want to hear from a nonstate like Catalonia, but there is little doubt that the region stands apart in many ways from Spain.
Although residents speak Spanish, most of the conversations overheard here are in Catalan. Waiters address customers in Catalan. Many of the signs leading to the city's most celebrated landmark, the Seu Vella cathedral, which was built in the 13th century, are only in Catalan. Asked how often he speaks Spanish, Manel Murgo, a 26-year-old salesman, said, "I speak Spanish when I go to Spain." His friend Daniel Puch, a 26-year-old businessman, said, "If I go up to a group of Catalans and start speaking Spanish, they look at me funny." Mr. Puch said he and his friends considered themselves Catalan first and Spanish second. In a game between a Catalan and a Spanish team, they would cheer for Catalonia. Catalonia has better athletes, not to mention better food, and a stronger economy, Mr. Puch and his friends said. But leaving all that aside, Mr. Areste Alonso said there was a final reason for preferring Catalonia. "Catalan is much prettier than Spanish," he said.