Castro lauds his athletes

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HAVANA (Reuter) - The Cuban President, Fidel Castro, has congratulated Cuba's Olympic athletes, saying they had shown patriotic and revolutionary spirit to win a historic fifth place in the medals table at Barcelona.

'I congratulate you, I hail you and I embrace you in the name of the people,' an emotional President told the athletes during a reception at the Palace of the Revolution, headquarters of the ruling Cuban Communist Party.

Cuba crowned its return to the Olympic arena after a 12-year absence by winning 31 medals, 14 of them gold; it was the country's best-ever performance. Cuba boycotted the Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 for political reasons.

President Castro told the Cuban Olympic team: 'I was impressed by your patriotic and revolutionary spirit.'

Cuba finished fifth behind the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States, Germany and China. It was the best- placed Latin American country, ahead of Brazil which came 25th.