Monday, 16 September 2013
Cuba and golf: Irony is lost on the yankees
Picture shows Che Guevara playing golf with Fidel Castro in 1959 at the Havana country club. The game was a publicity stunt staged after Fidel returned from his visit to the USA, where he had been snubbed by Eisenhower. Apparently, the US president said he was unable ot meet Castro because he had prior golf appointment. The picture, taken by the famous photographer Korda (who took the iconic portrait of Guevara), appeared in the newspaper Revolución under the heading: "Fidel and Che play golf better than Eisenhower." After the game, at Che's suggestion , the country club was chosen as the site for the architecturally astonishing Havana art schools and turned over to the education of the nation's youth.
When it comes to sports, there can surely be none that are less bourgeois than golf. After all it is the quintessential individualist enterprise - the only game in the world where you can actually play alone and still enjoy the challenge.
With its high prize-money, commercial paraphernalia and constant product innovation, there can surely be no sport less in tune with the socialist ideal. You would have thought that the opponents of Cuba's socialist government would be as anxious as anybody to have it return to the island where it once flourished before those beared revolutionaries took over in the 1960s and turned the bourgeoisie's happy golfing grounds into art schools and the like.
But no, the United States has actually done its darnedest to stop the game of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus from making a comeback.
As the Miami Herald reports today, a Canadian real estate company planning a golf resort in the island has filed a $25.5million suit against the PGA of America in Palm Beach County, alleging that the group has blocked its right to use the valuable PGA brand on the island.
The firm, 360 Vox Corp., formerly Leisure Canada, claims it lost $20 million in anticipated profits, $5.5 million in feasibility studies, the $80,000 licensing fee it paid to the British-based PGA Ltd (PGAL), and other expenses.
Leisure Canada is one of 16 foreign companies that have eagerly rushed to propose golf and marina resorts in Cuba after the government announced that it wanted to expand the island’s tourist offerings. None has started construction to date.
The lawsuit alleges that PGA of America, which represents teaching professionals and is not linked to the PGA Tour, pushed PGAL to cancel the license because of criticism, including from the blog Capitol Hill Cubans.
On March 14, 2011, Leisure Canada announced it had signed the licensing agreement with PGAL, which has the right to the PGA brand in Cuba, for the future use of names such as PGA Village Cuba and PGA National Golf Academy Cuba.
But three days later the blog “suggested that PGAL was using its British brand to ‘skirt sanctions’ ” imposed on Cuba by the half-century-old U.S. trade embargo, according to the lawsuit.
The following day, PGA of America, by far the largest and most powerful member of PGAL, disavowed any role in the Cuba project and four months later met with PGAL officials to discuss the Cuba licensing issue, the lawsuit noted.
“Succumbing to pressure from the PGA of America … on Dec. 18, 2012, PGAL sent 360 Vox a letter stating that it was terminating the agreement and would no longer agree to work with 360 Vox in Cuba,” according to the lawsuit.
“PGA of America strong-armed the PGA in England, that’s what they did,” said Glen H. Waldman, the lawyer who filed the 360 Vox lawsuit on Sept. 9 in Palm Beach County Court. “They caved, and my client is out millions of dollars.”
Cuba unleashed a frantic wave of interest from foreign developers in 2010 when word began to leak that it was considering approving foreign investments in golf and marina resorts. The island now has one 18-hole and one nine-hole course for the “bourgeoisie” sport.
But only four projects were reported in the summer of 2011 to be in the group that had finished negotiations with the government.
The Tourism Ministry has publicly mentioned final approval for only one of the four, The Carbonera Club, a $350 million project near Varadero beach east of Havana proposed by the British investment firm Esencia.
The three others were a Spanish project in Pinar del Rio province; a proposal in Holguin by Canada’s Standing Feather company; and a Bellomonte proposal by the British Coral Capital firm for a beach 15 miles east of Havana.
Bellomonte’s current standing is unclear because Coral Capital Executive Director Amado Fakhre and Chief of Operations Stephen Purvis were freed from a Cuban prison in June after two years under investigation for corruption.