MEXICO CITY, Mexico, February 1. THOUGH the name of the city lucky enough to host the 2019 Pan American Games won't be announced until October, one thing is certain: the event will be held in South America, as the four finalist cities all lie on that continent.
Today, the Pan American Sports Organization named La Punta, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela as the four cities that submitted bids for the sporting event that brings together athletes from North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Each city is vying for their first Pan Am hosting duties, though Venezuela and Argentina have each hosted the event before. Santiago was set to host the 1993 winter Pan American Games, but the Games was canceled when the United States threatened to withdraw over a small slate of events.
The Pan American Games have decreased in value over the past 30 years, as the United States and Canada have shied away from sending their best swimmers to the meet. The United States valued the Pan American Games as its top international championship in non-Olympic or world championship years, but the addition of the Pan Pacific Games and the conflicting schedule of the meet with the world championships in some years means a “B” team has been sent since the 1990s. Some Olympians have risen from the Pan American Games in the past 20 years, however, including Brad Bridgewater (1991 Pan Ams to 1996 Olympic gold), Mark Gangloff (2004 and 2008 Olympian) and B.J. Bedford (1995 Pan Ams to 2000 Olympic gold).
Water polo is the one sport that consistently feature top-flight competition at the Pan American Games, since the continental representatives for the Olympics are chosen there, as they were in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011.
Santiago and Lima appear to have the edge over La Punta and Puerto Ordaz in that they are their country's capital cities, meaning travel to and around those cities will be easier, and resources for constructing venues will be easier to obtain. Puerto Ordaz does have a metropolitan feel to it, and is quickly becoming one of the largest cities in Venezuela. La Punta, however, is 500 miles inland from Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city in Argentina, and reports indicate a population of about 15,000.
The Games have been held in Central and South America 12 of 17 times, with the United States last hosting the event in 1987 in Indianapolis. Canada is set to host the event for the third time in Toronto in the next iteration of the Pan American Games in July 2015. That event will likely not feature the top aquatic sports stars, as the FINA world championships in Russia will start in the middle of the Pan American Games festivities.
With the 2019 Pan American Games set to take place in South America, where it will be winter during the North American summer, the schedule might be shifted to late fall, as it was for the 2011 Games. However, a couple of the cities are close to the equator, making weather concerns less of an issue.