August 25, 2008
CARACAS -- Venezuela's poor performance at the Beijing Olympics moved President Hugo Chávez to order Venezuela's oil company to start looking for gold and silver ... medals.
Venezuela's delegation of more than 100 athletes won only a bronze medal in Beijing -- an effort that prompted harsh criticism from the local media.
Chávez told Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, on Sunday to ''open an office of competitive sports'' and asked the company's president, Rafael Ramírez, to meet with the oil-rich nation's Olympic squad ``to analyze the sports situation.''
Under Chávez, PDVSA has expanded its activities far beyond petroleum production to include food distribution, social welfare management and building housing.
In a recent editorial, Tal Cual newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff slammed Chávez for touting Venezuela's medal-winning chances ahead of the Olympics while sending an oversized and unprepared delegation to China.
''The megalomaniac thought the increased number of athletes was an achievement,'' Petkoff wrote. ``Someone more careful would know it wasn't sensible sending athletes without winning possibilities.''
Several athletes thanked Chávez for the socialist government's support during his Sunday television and radio program.
Dalia Contreras Rivero won a bronze in women's taekwondo in Beijing.
Venezuela has competed at every Olympics since 1948 and won 11 medals -- one gold, two silver and eight bronze -- most in boxing.
At Athens four years ago, it won two bronzes in weightlifting and taekwondo.