Whoever is free of guilt should cast the first stone in Barranquilla’s loss of 2027 Pan American Games hosting rights

Por AIPS América

12 de enero de 2024

Foto Panam Sports

The Mayor of Barranquilla Jaime Pumarejo and the Minister of Sports of Colombia, Astrid Rodríguez, carry the Pan American Flag after receiving it from Panam Sports in Santiago de Chile. (Photo by Panam Sports)

Jairo Giraldo Jiménez – AIPS America Training Committee


BOGOTÁ, January 10, 2024 – Leaders, sports officials, and congressmen are tearing their garments, seeking culprits and washing their hands like Pilate in the trial of Jesus Christ, waiting for someone to take responsibility after Panam Sports stripped the city Barranquilla, Colombia of its hosting duties for the 2027 Pan American Games.

The odyssey that triggered the loss of the hosting rights began early, with stumbles and inconsistencies, despite the regional and popular desire in Barranquilla to host the 2027 Pan American Games.

HOW IT ALL HAPPENED Once the Atlantico capital was designated as the host of the grand event in 2021 and received the flag in 2023 in Santiago, Chile, the commitment of the national government was to pay a total of eight million dollars to Panam Sports, divided into two instalments of four million each.

The agreed terms were as follows:

  • $2 million (already paid) from the Pumarejo City Hall.
  • $4 million by December 31, 2023, from the Ministry of Sports.
  • $4 million by January 31, 2024, from the Ministry of Sports.
  • $4 million for the year 2025.
  • $4 million for the year 2026.
  • $2 million for the year 2027.

Panam Sports argued that last October, it received an official letter from Colombian authorities requesting an extension of the agreed-upon payment deadlines, which was accepted: one part on December 30, 2023, and the other on January 30, 2024. However, Colombia did not transfer the money on time.

The organisation’s established timelines were not met, raising doubts among its directors, who proceeded to send a letter to the Colombian Olympic Committee announcing the cancellation of the hosting rights. Panam Sports evaluated other options and decided to open a call, inviting the 41 associated countries to submit proposals and find a new venue; the deadline is January 31.


Official logo of the 2027 Pan American Games.(Photo by  Mayor’s Office of Barranquilla)

OPTIONS Paraguay, Rio de Janeiro, and Guadalajara have already advanced in the process. It is worth noting that Chile and the United States are also expressing interest.

The new scenario will be clarified in an extraordinary assembly of Panam Sports in February when the official candidacies are known.

TRYING TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE Letters are going back and forth, phone calls, and intense lobbying with Pan-American sports authorities in a desperate attempt to repair the damage. From the Colombian president, who initially claimed that the Games had very high costs, to the sports minister, who did not advance the efforts to fulfil the agreements and the sports leadership, who patiently expected to resolve the issue with greetings and hugs—they all failed to handle the procedures promptly and seriously, knowing from their experience and obligations the importance of hosting an event like the Pan American Games for a city, a region, and a country.

Colombia must now undo the damage if it wants to regain Panam Sports’s trust in Barranquilla and attend the assembly, where it will try to convince countries to vote in its favour. This won’t be easy due to the history of non-compliance, the lobbying it has to do, and the millions that other countries will offer.

WHO IS TO BLAME? No one has wanted to take responsibility; the current government shifted the blame to the previous administration led by Ivan Duque, and the latter, in turn, claims that the error was in the management of the Ministry of Sports.

The former sports minister, Maria Isabel Urrutia, the first to take office in Gustavo Petro’s government, who also had responsibility for the matter, gave her version but washed her hands of it.

Since Gustavo Petro took office and with the venue already assigned, concerns from the Ministry of Sports about hosting the games began to surface.

Upon Astrid Rodríguez’s arrival at the ministry, replacing Urrutia, the issue of the venue was reoriented, but the new head of the department conditioned the delivery of resources to the event being held in various cities in the Caribbean region, as suggested by the Colombian presidency.


Minister of Sports of Colombia Astrid Rodríguez, is summoned by the Congress of the Republic to defend herself for the loss of the venue of the 2027 Pan American Games for the city of Barranquilla. (Photo by WEB District News)

REPUTATIONAL DAMAGE The truth is that Semana magazine has published several letters dated last August, in which the municipal administration of Barranquilla requested the president and the sports ministry to pay before it’s too late. Local governments informed President Petro that it was not the first time they warned him about the reputational damage caused by not making payments on time.

Now, former finance minister José Antonio Ocampo has come out to say, «It seems unbelievable that they have not been paid because the resources were available. That was a very important issue on the national stage, and that’s why the funds were secured,» he said in a national news radio interview.

So, did the Colombian government not want the Games and was trying to get rid of the commitment?

Reactions are pouring in: athletes are making strong statements, and, for example, Olympic medalist Mariana Pajón raised her voice, calling for everything possible to be done to recover the Pan American Games hosting rights. «We all lose,» said the Antioquian cyclist.

SUPPORT The Colombian Association of Sports Journalists (ACORD) has expressed support for the Colombian Olympic Committee, indicating its willingness to undertake any necessary efforts to find a solution.

The Congress of the Republic announced hearings and explanations, and oversight agencies referred to the opening of investigations for possible financial loss in case of losing nearly ten thousand million Colombian pesos (2 million 250 thousand dollars).

INVESTIGATIONS The Prosecutor’s Office, which investigates public officials, has summoned Sports Minister Astrid Rodríguez to explain the reasons for the alleged non-compliance and requested the contract signed with Panam Sports for the organisation of these continental Games. The oversight body asked the minister to specify the economic and other consequences for the country and its athletes.

The Colombian Olympic Committee is working to convince national committees about Barranquilla’s capacity to host the event, while the sports minister says she has the resources ready to deliver to the organization when it is already too late. Meanwhile, the mayor of Barranquilla, along with business associations and the sports leadership, is seeking solutions and trying to open doors to be heard.

THE ISSUE IS ECONOMIC Whoever fulfils the contracts by contributing the stipulated sums on time, meets the requirements, and convincingly makes their case will likely win the jackpot of organising the Games. This situation allows them to enjoy the investment and receive a good income from commercialisation and tourism.

In matters of such magnitude, the dollar factor is crucial. Just look at what happened when Colombia applied to host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games but lost to Argentina in a voting process in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2013. Contacts, promises, and votes assured Medellin of the hosting rights, supported by an impressive presentation to the International Olympic Committee. However, in the pre-voting negotiations, influences, votes, and dollars were used to tilt the favouritism and majority towards Argentina. A cold shower for Colombia.

Formula 1, which had designated Barranquilla as the chosen city for the Grand Prix of the Caribbean and demanded a letter from the national government expressing its approval for this event, is still awaiting that document, which is crucial for the company as it generates trust.

Formula 1 in Mexico leaves more than 100 million dollars per day in the economy of Mexico City during its four-day event. It attracts half a million tourists and has financial support.

FOTO 1. Logotipo oficial de los Juegos Panamericanos 2027.- Alcaldía de Barranquilla.

FOTO 2.  El Alcalde de Barranquilla Jaime Pumarejo y la Ministra del deporte de Colombia, Astrid Rodríguez, portan la Bandera Panamericana al momento de recibirla de parte de Panam Sports en Santiago de Chile. Foto Panam Sports

FOTO 3. Ministra del Deporte de Colombia Astrid Rodríguez, es citada por el Congreso de la República para rendir descargos por la pérdida de la sede de los Juiegos Panamericanos 2027 para la ciudad de Barranquilla. Foto WEB Distrito Noticioso.

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