As it had to happen, National Sports Commissioner (Conade) Alfredo Castillo turned in his resignation Tuesday to President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The general outcry was for the president to outright fire him from the post, given the initial lack of results in the only way to gauge the failure or success of a nation’s performance in an Olympiad: medals, be they bronze, silver or gold.
At this point last week Mexico had only one bronze medal and that was because in boxing, unlike in the other competitions, third and fourth place get bronze. And Mexico got fourth place. Had it been any other sport, there would have been no bronze medal.
But the heroes came forward and Mexico finally got three silvers and one more bronze to tally five medals in the competition. Not much compared to the United States or China, but at least Alfredo Castillo could save some face and claim that the effort under his administration showed results.
Castillo’s direct boss, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño Mayer immediately came to his defense claiming that the number of medals earned in different sports was “within the average” and there was no reason, at least for the Public Education Secretariat, which oversees Conade, to dismiss him. At least not for lack of results, as in the end the 127 member Mexican delegation had delivered medals.
Yet the public pressure demanding Alfredo Castillo’s dismissal was overburdening. It came from all parts of society and most adamantly from several sports federations. Conade is there to serve and subsidize with public funds. Most vocal were the presidents of the boxing and swimming federation who’ve been demanding Castillo’s beheading since last March.
President Peña Nieto, to use his own words, swam through this tempest “swimming like a dead man” (nadando de muertito) and paid no heed to the barrage of criticism Alfredo Castillo, his personal appointee, was taking.
And indeed some of the medals in the roster came from both the swimming and boxing federation which Alfredo Castillo withheld funds from. Let’s not forget that when the first medal came in boxing, middleweight boxer Misael Rodríguez made it public that he and other team members had to panhandle in the streets to meet expenditures to get to the Quatar Olympiad qualifying round. That was a shameful embarrassment to all Mexicans, as Conade received a whopping 2.6 billion pesos ($140.6 million) for supporting all the sports federations.
Alfredo Castillo claimed then that he withheld the funds from the boxing and swimming federations because their presidents were extremely corrupt and were not showing accountability for the money they were getting. Still, some of that money was trickling down to the sports competitors who in the end produced medals, even without the Conade funding.
The list of complaints against the performance of Alfredo Castillo is overwhelming. And even larger is the amount of people demanding his resignation.
The credit for the medals, no matter what Education Secretary Nuño Mayer may claim to defend his buddy, does not go to Conade, or the Peña Nieto administration.
The credit goes to the resilience, discipline and belief in themselves, and the nation, of the five medal winners.
A sixth medal, the medal of shame, goes to Alfredo Castillo who, when presenting his resignation Tuesday, publicly apologized for taking his girlfriend to Rio wearing a uniform spared only by the delegation. She was no part of it yet she wore a Hugo Boss design uniform, not a patched-up one like some of the weightlifters wore.
The uniform scandal got out of hand, so much so that one of Mexico’s members of the International Olympic Committe, Olegario Vázquez Raña, had to intervene so that the taekwondo fighters were not disqualified because of the tackiness of their uniforms.
Whether President Peña Nieto accepts Alfredo Castillo’s resignation or not is by now meaningless. Perhaps Castillo may be right in claiming that the success is not measured in earned medals and what’s important is to compete, not win.
This is an old Mexican excuse for losers and the bitter aftertaste for all Mexicans is that the nation’s athletes could have done better under proper administrative guidance.
But then, the final culprit is the president himself for appointing a madcap egomaniac who had no experience in sports management to lead the Mexican delegation.