Daniela Larreal’s Olympic struggle for funding

Venezuelan track cyclist Daniela Larreal has plenty of Olympic experience: four appereances in the last five games (she missed Beijing 2008 due to an accident) and she has qualified for London 2012. But last week, she faced her biggest challenge yet, even before actually competing: getting the neccesary funds to actually go to the Games.

Larreal’s record is impressive and she shouldn’t have any problems finding support, but while training in Switzerland she went on a Twitter rampage against the Sport Ministry for putting her presence on the Olympics on jeopardy. The reason: administrative delays with her funding. She also accused the government of leaving her and other olympians behind while spending millions on Pastor Maldonado’s Formula 1 adventure.

This is not Larreal’s first brush  with controversy. While she has openly supported President Chavez, she was left out of some event in the last Pan-American Games due to her critisism of the Sports Law.

It looks like this story, at least, has a happy ending: following much pressure, her funds were authorized and Daniela will be able to compete in London after all, for now. The lesson, though, is clear: the ease of getting official Venezuelan support for your sporting career is directly proportional to the carbon you emit while practicing it!

42 thoughts on “Daniela Larreal’s Olympic struggle for funding

  1. I enjoy the article. I think she should be funded. I kinda wish she was funded by cannodale and not cadivi.

    Careful with statements like ” the ease of getting official Venezuelan support for your sporting career is directly proportional to the carbon you emit while practicing it!”. How much state funding goes baseball or football gets in Venezuela in proportion to F1? Careful with your biases. I don’t know the numbers but I am sure a loooot more cash goes into vino tinto + federacion + small clubs than all of the carbon emitting sports combined.

    Carbon footprint is an extremely serious issue. One that doesn’t get enough attention in venezuelan media. But politically biased arguments undermine its importance. Venezuela is the biggest CO2 emitting country in LATAM per capita. And that in spite that 75% of our electricity comes from renewable. Why? Gasoline subsidy that leads to reckless driving, to poor mass transit and low mortality of old car fleets.

      • damn it, sorry to get you in trouble with my edit for the second post in a row…I need to stop that!

      • You forgot to mention she was World Champion in 2007. She also got a bronze medal at the World Cup in China early this year (Jan 2012), and she’s 38 frigging years old!

    • I do guess ignorantly that Cannondale and many other brands of cycling equipment might have found it desirable to curtail their sales (and any publicity or sponsorship) to Venezuela, again thanks to CADIVI and impoverished potential customers.

      The strangulation of private enterprise and therefore of the freedom and independence of the individual -sportsperson- who might have relied on private’s enterprise support -sponsorship- for example, is manifold in its ways.

      You might allow for a service to be provided by the State, but State monopoly of anything (and I might only make an exception of weapons of mass destruction) is immoral.

  2. Don’t get me started on people who think walking and bicycling produce less carbon emissions per km than driving a fuel efficient car, just because they don’t count the extra food they need to eat, and all the emissions it takes to produce and distribute the extra food for them.

  3. Cycling is only less carbon efficient than walking if you’re eating only (or mostly) meat – http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/how-virtuous-is-ed-begley-jr/?hp .

    But what Cycling and Walking really do is limit traffic congestion, which is the ultimate source of useless, socially destructive emissions: cars sitting around burning fuel as they go nowhere.

    (Plus they save everyone money on health care, because they improve cardiovascular health, which driving worsens – http://io9.com/5908686/your-commute-is-killing-you )

    • I hope Torres was being sarcastic there.

      Not only that carbon is bad. But not as bad as CO, O3, NO and NO2, heavy metals and other nasty stuff that comes out when you drive a car. Specially in old cars (like those in Venezuela) that don’t have a catalytic converter that is there to sequester all the nasty stuff. Or worse, new cars that when the catcon gets clogged, our brilliant mechanics just take them off since “eso no sirve para nada”. And their customers go happily and sit in traffic putting out all kinds of pollutants into the air.

      Also overall, if you do an energy lifecycle analysis on a bike its footprint is waaaaaay, orders of magnitude smaller that that of the car. If you buy a steel bike even lower.

        • That’s only for moving it. But not if you do the lifecycle analysis. Cars will emit other pollutants that bikes don’t, take more energy to build. Also, cars not only eat gas, they also eat spare parts that require more energy than bikes. The idea that bikes can have a larger footprint than cars is silly. You (the article) considers the energy that goes into making food and distributing it, but not the energy into making fuel and distributing it. So it is not a fair comparison.

          • And we could go further, what about all the infrastructure for cars, broader streets, parking houses, garages, car wash, etc., all CO2-free? But maybe you have a point, people who exercise live longer and so it compensate at least somewhat the bill.

            • LD, all the infrastructure still has to exist for the walkers and cyclists because not only do they still need cars for occasions, but the trucks and machinery for all the extra farming need them too.

      • Rodrigo Linares, take a look at Quico’s link. Assuming their numbers are correct, which I question, you still see that a car transporting two persons would outperform 2 walkers. Put one more person in the car and you’ve outperformed 3 cyclists.

        If you talk about the car manufacturing process, you also have to consider the truck manufacture process of all the farm equipment and transportation, and all the fuel they burn in producing and distributing the food.

        If you slide further down details road, you’ll see that walkers and cyclists still need cars for when they cannot walk or cycle, so attributing car manufacture only to one side is unfair. Also consider walkers and cyclists do more wash, bathe more often, replace more clothing.

        As to the quality of the output, again, the trucks, planes, tractors and extra manual labor plus additional chemicals and land needed in farming and distributing it all, cannot be too different.

        And since opportunity costs were mentioned elsewhere, consider the cost of time saving. Cars just get you there faster so there’s more time to get more done, unless –getting to Quico’s point– there’s traffic.

        Traffic is waste all around, but cycling and walking is not necessarily the optimal solution. Decongesting cities can be as simple as UCTs, or promoting telepresence technologies, or even just optimizing traffic signaling to be automatic and dynamic to maximize flow.

        The point is, though, not that one is better than the other, but that it’s not such a nobrainer as most would have us believe.

        • You are right. I was framing my responses for commuting. Naturally it is not efficient to bike across the country. Or drive. You would probably fly. If you need to move around in a high density city, probably biking or mass transit have a lower impact. But not driving by yourself as the majority of the commuters do.

          What you elaborate later is the very long debate around lifecycle analysis. Where do you limit the system?

          The consensus is that you limit it on the direct inputs. That means that the machinery required to make things is not taken into account in the analysis. Although there is a lot of debate around this.

          Quico’s link compares the energy inputs on food (i.e. fetilizers, gas used to distribute) vs gas to drive. All I am saying is that it is an unfair comparison. If you are to compare it with gas, you have to add the penalty of producing it (not including what it took to produce the equipment) and distributing it. So each littler of gas has a carbon foot print on its own, right? All I am saying is the calcs in the article are flawed because of their assumptions.

          Also, not everyone that owns a bike owns a car. Specially in cities where there are shared vehicles.

          I am not saying that driving is not required, and yes, under certain conditions can be more efficient, but commuting in congested cities, which represents a large chunk of driving is not it.

  4. On the subject of sport and carbon footprints this made me laugh. Then I thought what chance did Venezuela have.

    Some 400 Athletic Bilbao fans missed out on seeing their team in last week’s Europa League final after accidentally flying to the wrong country.

    The fans of the Basque team had clubbed together to charter a jet specially for the match to ensure that they could not be undone by airline schedules, industrial action or any other unforeseen cancellation.
    There was only one tiny flaw in their plan: instead of chartered a flight to the Romanian capital of Bucharest, they chartered one to Budapest, in neighbouring Hungary.
    They only discovered their mistake when they landed in the wrong country, but the plucky fans immediately set about trying to make the 400-mile dash to the Arena Nationala in Bucharest by car, train or bus… though on realising that their return flight was booked for just a few hours after the final whistle, they reluctantly had to accept that they would have to watch on TV.
    Still, maybe they were better off not making it after all: Bilbao were well-beaten 3-0 by Atletico Madrid on the night.
    And they can further console themselves with the knowledge that their mistake is a common one: even the official UEFA stadium announcer at the match opened proceedings by booming out a cheery “Good evening, Budapest!” over the PA system before the match kicked off.

    • Great fun. A friend of mine once booked a RyanAir Ticket from Genova, turned up at the airport, and was promptly informed her flight would leave an hour later…from Geneva.

      • I have friends who flew to La Paz for a Bolivian travel adventure but spent the week on the beach in Baja California. And a friend of a friend flew to Costa Rica from Denmark and then, once in the taxi after arriving, learned that he was in San Jose, California.

  5. Question: are her funds her own or are they state given?
    They just approved her request for dollars, but the money seems to be hers.
    We must be very careful when we say that she “was funded by Cadivi”. She was not.

    • Well… there is a second order funding here since she is given dollars at a preferential rate. Even if their funds are her own in bolivares, 50% of their dollars was funded by the state.

  6. “The lesson, though, is clear: the ease of getting official Venezuelan support for your sporting career is directly proportional to the carbon you emit while practicing it!”

    Coman quejode caraotas pues, no juegue! Asi si le dan sus realitos!

  7. “…she faced her biggest challenge yet.”

    I would be very careful with the type of language/sentences used in this post. I am not a fan of exaggerations, and while I physically understand the anguish one could feel when facing bureaucratic burdens that could destroy one’s dreams, at the end of the day I doubt this has been her biggest challenge yet. Not until I hear it ad verbatim from her at least…

    • Obviously, the challenge was related to this Olympic Games, her fifth. She lost the chance of going to Beijing four years ago because of an accident.

      You got a valid point. I acknowledge it. I’m sorry for that.

      • Yeah it seems like she’s blaming everyone but him… I’m ok with the government supporting sport programs, as long they keep their mouth shut when it comes down with politics.

  8. This is the same issue that has faced every artist and dancer I’ve known in Venezuela who has tried to travel abroad for work. If rich, they could just get parallel or black-market dollars and go. But as middle-class or poor people, they can’t afford that. So they wait for Cadivi, always begging for a ministerial signature until the very last minute. They often miss inscription deadlines or cheaper airfares because of these delays. The biggest problem is that the minister him or herself needs to sign off on everything, and the ministers are always busy attending Alo Presidente or building shelters for flood victims.

  9. As an American-Venezuelan living in Finland, I completely support Global Warming. I am eagerly awaiting the benefts and warmiing influneses. Please, produce as much carbon immited into the atmosphere as you can. Thank you.

    • Lol, my thoughts exactly!

      You are probably joking but, in my mind, we oughta squeeze this puppy dry as best we can. We’re gonna run out in the next hundred years anyway, might as well use it to get the best foothold possible.

      Our mistake so far has been to trust the tyrants with it.

  10. “Even if their funds are her own in bolivares, 50% of their dollars was funded by the state.”

    Excuse me – these dollars are not funded by the state – they are paid for by the person receiving them. It’s the state that makes the stupid rules.

    It’s only because of these stupid exchange controls that we have to go through the hoops to get them. Does any other country have these types of controls?

    • Certainly. I can remember South Africa being one of them, for example. It’s just that Venezuela’s foreign exchange control is particularly strict.

  11. I guess that publicity potential plays a key role here. Also among Venezuelans.

    Remember that Venezuelans outside of Gochilandia can’t quite wrap their minds around the idea of your using a contraption that needs physical effort to move around, willingly if there’s a car around. In fact, having been a cyclist in Caracas, I got the awe, a mix or horror and admiration, that you would have gotten in the Ancient World had you said that you had seizures, foamed at the mouth and uttered prophecy. They might admire your madness, want no part of it, not the least because they thought you stood a good chance of dying. Might be true given safety concerns.

    Now, there’s yet another reason to consider the Gochos the finest Venezuelans.

  12. Why doesn’t Alvaro Uribe go to a small remote island, stop shaving and take up blogging for, say, six to eight months?

  13. Do not get the hate towards Formula 1. Motoracing is a business, just like soccer, baseball and any other professional sport. Phrases like “Grown men wasting millions of dollars while burning fossil fuels for fun?” are certainly misguided and do not accurately describe what the sport is really about.

    • I sense that the discussion was more like “I want any sport of my likening to be sponsored by PDVSA”…

  14. So your point here is that the Venezuelan government is actually accountable and actually listens to its citizens when they ask it for assistance. Yep, just like all those Western governments you worship who never fail to do that, right?

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