AP Explains: A look at the Pan American Games in Lima
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The opening ceremony of the Pan American Games was held Friday in the Peruvian capital of Lima. The largest multi-sporting event in the Americas will run until Aug. 11. Here’s a look at the ceremony and the games which are held every four years:
WHO WILL FOLLOW THE CEREMONY?
Organizers say that more than 400 million people worldwide will watch the ceremony that will highlight Peru’s natural beauty.
“We’ve created the most spectacular cultural event in Peruvian history,” said Juan Antonio Silva, the director of communications, commercialization and marketing for Lima 2019. “We’ll show the world that we’re more than Machu Picchu and our gastronomy.”
WHAT WAS THE SHOW LIKE?
The ceremony included references to Peru’s indigenous ancestry and its rich culture, geography and art. Performers dressed as fishermen rowed on traditional boats made from the dried reeds of the totora plant, while surfers in modern fluorescent bodysuits rode invisible waves in a sea of light shows nearby. The ceremony included more than 1,700 performers and was organized by Italian company Balich Worldwide Shows, which was also in charge of the opening ceremony at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. One of the main acts included Luis Fonsi who made the whole world dance with his hit “Despacito.”
HOW MANY ATHLETES?
Nearly 7,000 athletes from 41 countries will compete in the games. A record 21 of the 61 sporting disciplines in Lima will serve as qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?
The Americans are favored to finish atop the medal standings. The U.S. roster includes 321 men and 325 women. During the 17-day event, the team will compete in 36 sports — all of them except for baseball, bodybuilding and soccer. Brazil, Canada and Cuba are also among top medal contenders.
WHICH SPORTS WILL MAKE THEIR DEBUT?
Bodybuilding and surfing will feature in the regional event for the first time. The Pacific coast of Peru is known is known for its surfing and the event will be an ideal testing ground for the sport, which will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.
WHO ARE THE OLYMPIANS?
Lima will feature more than 100 Olympians in individual and team competitions. Track star Justin Gatlin and five-time swimming gold medalist Nathan Adrian are on the U.S. team. Among the other stars are triple gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica, two-time BMX gold medalist Mariana Pajon from Colombia and triple Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist Mijain Lopez from Cuba.
HOW BIG IS THE CAFETERIA FOR THE ATHLETES?
Athletes and visitors will be able to taste Peru’s cuisine, which is famous worldwide for its rich culinary traditions that blend indigenous and Asian flavors. The cafeteria at the Pan American Games villa is set up to serve about 50,000 portions of food a day. The gargantuan dining hall is about the size of one and a half soccer fields, and its kitchen is about the size of nine basketball courts.
“The country accepted the challenge and made a giant achievement when it built this dining hall,” said Edgardo Oliva, head of Sodexo, a Company that also managed the dining halls at the London 2012 Olympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
WHY DO THE GAMES COME AT A DIFFICULT TIME FOR PERU?
The Pan Am Games are being held as Peru has been rocked by major political troubles. Former Peru President Alejandro Toledo was recently arrested in the U.S. following an extradition request. He’s wanted in Peru on accusations of taking bribes from Odebrecht, a construction Brazilian company at the center of Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal. In April, former President Alan García mortally wounded himself with a gunshot to his head as officers waited to arrest him in a graft probe linked to the scandal.
HOW MUCH MONEY WAS SPENT ON THE GAMES?
In all, Peru spent about $1 billion for what it has branded the biggest sporting event in its history. It also includes a housing complex for the athletes and the remodeling of several stadiums. Organizers say the project has created world-class infrastructure for the 9 million residents of the Peruvian capital located in a desert across from the Pacific Ocean. They say that the money spent — about half as much as Toronto 2015 —is an opportunity to popularize sports that are mostly unknown to Peruvians. But some critics say that organizers should have focused on arenas for sports that are popular in Peru instead of building venues for sports like rugby, softball and water polo.
WHY HAVE SOME RESIDENTS COMPLAINED?
Residents of a shanty town in Lima have witnessed the construction of the multi-million dollar Villa María del Triunfo sporting complex from their cardboard and wooden shacks. That conflicts with their decades-old and largely unanswered demands to the government for drainage, roads and drinking water in one of the world’s driest capitals.
Associated Press writers Franklin Briceno, Luis Ruiz and Carlos Rodriguez contributed to this report.