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jueves, 2 de diciembre 2021
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The Healthy "Business" of Improving the Sports Budget

By: Ronal Castañeda Tabares - Journalist

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games showed a diversity of Colombian athletes competing strongly in categories such as 400 meters in track and field or BMX. In this article, we analyze why it is important to invest in high-performance sports and what the returns for society are.

Athlete Anthony Zambrano won the silver medal in the 400 meters at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photographs: courtesy of the Colombian Olympic Committee

Anthony Zambrano, a 23-year-old athlete from Guajira, made history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by winning the silver medal in the 400 meters race. It was the first time that a Colombian won such a medal in a male event in his category. After the competition, he raised his shirt in front of the cameras. It showed the following message: "I love you, Mom. Your birthday present. Thanks for everything", as a tribute to that housewife who left Maicao with Anthony in her arms to go to Barranquilla, where they live today and where the boy grew up before winning the medal.

"In this life, I have already done many things: bicycle taxi driver, motorcycle taxi driver, bricklayer, painter, mechanic... Growing up in Colombia is not easy, and soon you have to earn a living. Whenever I go out to run, I think about where I am from, where I come from, how I got here", said the athlete to the official website

Much like Zambrano, 29-year-old racewalker John Alexander Castañeda, from Bogota, shared his difficulties to be an athlete in Colombia on social networks before competing in the 20-km racewalking category: "I am a young public university student. I came out of public school and kindergarten. I was raised in a low-income neighborhood in southern Bogota... I am one of the many ignored day to day". He posted this on his social networks on August 4.

The cases of Zambrano and Castañeda show the reality of many elite athletes. Surrounded by limitations, with few resources and often without state or private support, they can reach the Olympic podium, as happened in Tokyo 2020. Sixty-eight Colombians participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the third highest number in history after the 147 athletes in Rio 2016 and the 104 athletes in London 2012. They won five, eight and nine medals, respectively.

Despite the disappointment of not winning a gold medal as in past editions, the former president of the Colombian Olympic Committee (COC), Baltazar Medina, made a positive assessment of the Colombian delegation in the Olympic Games, where four silver medals and one bronze medal were won.  

"You don’t have to win every time you play. Sometimes, you have to recognize that your rivals either prepared better or made fewer mistakes", said sports official Baltazar Medina, who served as COC president for 12 years until his resignation in March 2021.

More than Investment

Has enough been invested in the athletes? However, a higher budget does not necessarily lead to more medals. According to The Ministry of Sports, during Juan Manuel Santos’ administration, 13,000 million were invested in the preparation of our athletes for the Olympic Games, while in the government of Iván Duque, the budget increased to $ 43,000 million: 25,000 million in 2020 and 18,000 million for participation in qualifying events, sports equipment, ergogenic aids —energy use—, policies, insurance, training camp stays, among others. 

However, some think that under the Colombian sports system, investments are not made equally, as Carlos Agudelo Loaiza, coordinator of UdeA’s Olympic Studies Center, sees it. 

"If I make the comparison with mass sports in Colombia, for example, football, which has clubs that go to the League and then to the Federation, it has tournaments throughout the year, a large budgetary investment, media coverage and attention from the market. At the elite level, if I compare it with boxing, which gets less economic support, and several of its participants belong to vulnerable populations, it is easier to win a medal on a ring than on a pitch", said Agudelo Loaiza, Olympic Chair at the University. 

In this sense, the need to work more with outstanding athletes is also highlighted: "We need to broaden the basis of selection of high-performance athletes, for which we need to develop sports talent programs more and pay more attention to what we call ‘generational shift’", said Baltazar Medina, a graduate of UdeA’s University Institute of Physical Education and Sports. He added that training to increase the preparation of coaches must also be promoted. This includes improving their working conditions with good contracts.

In addition to the budget, a way to read the results in terms of medals won is the impact on a country’s inhabitants. According to this indicator, medals behave like the tip of a pyramid that allows you to measure the pyramid’s base. "That’s when it’s important to measure the number of medals per capita. It is much more important to have a medal in a population of 400,000 inhabitants than in one of over four million inhabitants".

Regardless of the number of inhabitants and the budget, Baltazar Medina insists that Colombia's great advantage, diversity, must be strengthened: "We have to identify the potential in each of the sports and promote those growth poles by putting emphasis on those sports. An example is precisely the development model that, with some irregularities and lack of support, has been implemented in Urabá, where athletes, weightlifters and boxers are emerging".

Weightlifter Luis Javier Mosquera won the Olympic silver medal in the 67-kg category. 


Sports should be an activity promoted as a state policy for many reasons, including health. Exercise is not only good for physical fitness, but it has also been proven to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress and improve people's concentration.

Besides promoting our country's participation in tournaments, Olympic Games or cups, Carlos Agudelo pointed out that the promotion of sports is not only the action, but also what it represents for society in terms of well-being, culture, ownership and, now, during the coronavirus pandemic, as an activity for resilience and integration.

Sports also influence the values of those who play them: "In the case of formative sports, a double commitment is generated since athletes must study and practice. Along the way, they learn through play to respect essential values: discipline, honesty and dedication", said Miguel Cadavid, coach of Universidad de Antioquia's women's football team, which 20 students between the ages of 18 and 24 belong to. 

The official Baltazar Medina pointed out that they are also a factor of identity: "Who else but our athletes carry the good name of Colombia around the world? They are our children, our sports children if we can call them that. They are persuasive models to guide Colombia’s youth, even more so now that we are going through a crisis of values. Young people need other types of values based on which sports help them to recover and get ahead in life". 

Educational Opportunity

Since September 2020, Universidad de Antioquia defined a status, special admission, and thus settles a historical debt provided for in the Sports Act, which requires educational institutions to adjust and make curricula and internal regulations more flexible. This helps admitted undergraduate students continue their education without having to stop their sports-related activities.

In the case of UdeA, for each of the 88 undergraduate programs offered in the Medellin and regional campuses, an additional quota must be created to guarantee preferential access to those who have won gold, silver or bronze medals in national, international, Olympic games or world championships and who belong to leagues, associations, federations and professional clubs recognized by the Ministry of Sports.


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