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Tampa To Host Junior Pan Am Games

June 22, 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The Junior Pan American Games scheduled for next month will be held in Tampa after Miami rejected the international teen-age track and field competition because of Cuban-American opposition.

Leaders of Florida 2012, a nonprofit group trying to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the Tampa Bay area, said Tuesday they will help USA Track and Field host the three-day event.

The championships are scheduled for July 9-11, giving Tampa sponsors less than three weeks to plan for it.

The games, to be held at the University of South Florida, are expected to bring at least 350 young athletes from 35 countries to the area.

Cuban-Americans in the Miami area were upset Cuban athletes were invited to participate. Now Cuban groups in Tampa are also angered.

``Let Cuba compete when it is free, democratic, sovereign and human rights are restored,″ said Osberto Fernandez, president of the Tampa Cuban Exile Council.

Cuba has until June 25 to decide whether to participate.

``We are involved in the same fight against (Cuban President Fidel) Castro as Miami Cubans,″ said Oscar Rodriguez, president of Casa Cuba.

But Cuban-American attorney Pedro G. Velez Jr., sees the situation differently.

``The reality is there are many Cubans in this city and the state who believe that there should be normalized political and economical relations between the United States and Cuba,″ Velez said.

The international competition will be held simultaneously with the Sunshine State Games, an amateur Florida event that is expected to bring up to 1,000 young athletes to USF July 8-10.

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