South American Games Exceed Expectations for Medellin
“The whole organization, I think everyone is happy” said Andres Botero, IOC member and a vice president of ODESUR, the continental organization that oversees the 15-nation games.
“The sporting venues are top-class, I would they are at Pan American level, maybe above Pan American levels,” said Botero.
IOC members such as Ivan Dibos of Peru told Around the Rings the level of organization and quality of venues surpassed what was necessary for a games this size.
Botero said he was also surprised at the enthusiasm and interest of Paisas, as residents of Medellin are known,
The South American Games, Botero claims, are a chance to show Medellin and Colombia’s transformation over the last decade.
“We’ve shown the world the city, that went through so many difficulties in the past that was looked as the crime capital is now the sports capital of the world.
“That’s the image we really wanted to show, we really worked to improve the safety in the city, in the country, this is a culmination of al those efforts to show the world an excellent sports event, an excellent sports organization so people can think of our city in a different way.”
For years Medellin was plagued by drug cartel crime, kidnappings and murders part of daily life. Botero said the city was too dangerous at one point to make the 30 minute trip to the airport because guerillas would kidnap travelers. Last year there were no reported kidnappings and the murder rate has fallen dramatically.
The biggest challenge Botero said, was convincing the previous mayor just to bid for the South American Games.
The city and state government are both on board as Games sponsors.
Staging the event will cost around $170 million to $180 million. Of that, 70 percent comes from the government ,Botero said.
Coca-Cola is the largest private sponsor; Coke president Muhtar Kent attended the opening ceremony March 19.
Botero said the lasting legacy of the Games will be Medellin turning into a sports capital.
“We have world class venues. Every sport now wants to hold a world cup or international event or something in Medellin. So they found a new place to stage events.”
At the opening ceremony Friday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe urged Colombia to bid for larger sporting events in the future, naming the Youth Olympic Games and the Pan American Games.
Uribe said a Colombian bid for the 2026 World Cup is in the works.
Botero said following the South American Games, the city will consider a bid for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games or the Pan American Games in 2019. He will lead a task force investigating the feasibility of both bids. A decision will be based on which “can be easier to win for the city”. A decision will come “in the next couple months”.
Bogota unsuccessfully bid for the 2015 Pan Ams, awarded in November to Toronto.