Over at the Velódromo Martin E. Cochise, the Colombians really cleaned up on the track bike finals, winning 95% of the overall medals. This was especially pleasing to world champion cyclist Martin E. Cochise, who just so happened to be sitting two seats away from me during the finals. There was a moment of tenseness, when it seemed one of the cyclists might break his world record time trial from 1970, but the 67-year old saw his legacy remain intact. For being the best known figure in Colombian cycling, he was a very outgoing, yet humble character, continuing to sign autographs and encourage “the wave” inside the Velódromo.
The last event, the ‘Americana,’ paired 7 teams of two bikers for 140 rotations around the Velodromo. The most exciting part of this event is how each team grabs and “slingshots” their teammate around the curves, attempting to score every 20 laps. After 100 laps, the positioning for the last scoring lap got a bit fierce, with Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia all within grasp of the Gold. As the Argentine cyclist crossed the finish line in first place, he turned to taunt the Colombian cyclist behind him with a closed fist. This didn’t sit well with the crowd, or the Colombian cyclists, who exchanged unpleasantries with the Argentine while still riding around. I (regrettably) made the decision to yell BOLUDO! (jerk) at the pompous jerk. As the quarreling trio came by our side, some of the younger Colombians in the stands picked up on my Argentine-centric insult and started a BO-LU-DO! chant.
Hold on, let me find my soapbox. While I hate the stereotype that Argentines are arrogant, self-absorbed, wannabe-Europeans who could care less about the rest of South America, this is more or less how they are viewed in Colombia and throughout the continent. Having lived some months in Argentina, I’ll gladly stick my neck out for all my coworkers, friends and acquaintances whom have shown me what great people they are. But ¡Carajo! You guys have to learn something about Public Diplomacy! I was in Argentina when World Cup soccer coach Diego Maradona made the infamous “keep on sucking” comment that bounced around worldwide sports networks, making all Argentines look like arrogant jerks. To have more athletes reinforcing this stereotype is just terrible. Some advice for any Argentine athletes (or travelers) outside of Argentina: If you don’t want to be a BOLUDO in the eyes of other countries, please, just leave the attitude and “boludez” at home. Take it from a gringo who managed to the humility to befriend a cycling legend from Colombia without bringing up Lance Armstrong once.