Pan American Games

Pan American Games
Pan American Games
Flag of PASO.svg
Charter • PASO • NOCs • Symbols
Sports • Competitors
Medal tables • Medalists • Ceremonies

The Pan-American or Pan American Games (also known colloquially as the Pan Am Games) are a major event in the Americas featuring summer and formerly winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Pan American Games are the second largest multi-sport event after the Summer Olympics.[1] The competition is held between athletes from nations of the Americas, held every four years in the year before the Summer Olympic Games. There also has been one edition of the Winter Pan American Games in 1990. The Pan American Games were last held in Guadalajara in 2011. The next edition of the Games will be held in Toronto in 2015. Since 2007, host cities are contracted to manage both the Pan American and the Parapan American Games,[2] in which athletes with physical disabilities compete against one another. The Parapan American Games are held immediately following their respective Pan American Games. PASO is the governing body of the Pan American Games movement, whose structure and actions are defined by the Olympic Charter.[2]

The Pan American Games Movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that are recognized by PASO, and organizing committees for each specific Pan American Games. As the decision-making body, PASO (Pan American Sports Organization) is responsible for choosing the host city for each Pan American Games. The host city is responsible for organizing and funding a celebration of the Games consistent with Olympic Charter (since PASO is affiliated with the IOC, the Olympic Charter) and rules. The Pan American Games program, consisting of the sports to be contested at the Games, is also determined by PASO. The celebration of the Games encompasses many rituals and symbols, such as the flag and torch, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. There are over 5,000 athletes that compete at the Pan American Games in 36 different sports and nearly 400 events. The first, second, and third place finishers in each event receive gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively.[3]



Early Games

The official logo of the first ever Pan American Games in 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The idea of holding a Pan American Games dates back to the hosting of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, United States. Latin American representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who were inspired by the holding of the first Central American Games in 1926, proposed the creation of a competition that would include all the countries of the Americas, for the purpose of strengthening sport activities in the region. The idea resulted also in the first ever Pan American Sports Congress, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1940. The Congress determined that the inaugural games would be held in 1942 in Buenos Aires, plans that were eventually postponed due to World War II. At the end of the war, a second Pan American Sports Congress in London during the 1948 Summer Olympic Games, confirmed Buenos Aires as the host for the first Pan American Games, which were finally scheduled for 1951. Competitions started on February 25 and included 2,513 athletes from 21 countries, competing in 18 sports.[4] Countries that were part of the Commonwealth of Nations such as Canada did not compete at the first Pan American Games.[5] The second edition of Pan American Games, were the first to be held in the Central American and Caribbean region as they were held in Mexico City, Mexico. Competitions started on March 12 and included 2,583 athletes from 22 countries, competing in 17 sports.[6] The Pan American Games were held subsequently every four years in the cities of Chicago, United States in 1959, São Paulo, Brazil in 1963 and Winnipeg, Canada in 1967.[6]

Recent Games

Flag of the participating countries flying at the 2007 Pan American Games athlete's village.

From 2,513 participants representing 14 nations in 1951, the Games have grown to about 5,633 competitors from 42 countries at the 2007 Pan American Games.[4] During the Games most athletes and officials are housed in the Pan American Games village. This village is intended to be a self-contained home for all the Pan American Games participants. It is furnished with cafeterias, health clinics, and locations for religious expression.[7]

PASO allows nations to compete that do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that other international organizations demand. As a result, colonies and dependencies are permitted to set up their own National Olympic Committees. Examples of this include territories such as Puerto Rico and Bermuda all of which compete as separate nations despite being legally a part of another country.[8]

Winter Pan American Games

Las Leñas, Argentina, hosted the only Pan American Winter Games.

There have been attempts to hold Winter Pan American Games throughout the history of the games, but these have been without much success. An initial attempt to hold winter events was made by the organizers of the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, who planned to stage winter events later in the year but dropped the idea due to lack of interest.[9]

Lake Placid, New York tried to organize Winter Games in 1959, but, again not enough countries expressed interest, and the plans were eventually cancelled.[9]

In 1988, members of PASO voted to hold the first Pan American Winter Games at Las Leñas, Argentina in September 1989. It was further agreed that Winter Games would be held every four years. Lack of snow however, forced the postponement of the games until September 16–22, 1990 when only eight countries sent 97 athletes to Las Lenas. Of that total, 76 were from just three countries: Argentina, Canada, and the United States. Weather was unseasonably warm and again there was little snow, so only three Alpine Skiing events – the Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Super G were staged. The United States and Canada combined to win all 18 medals.[9]

PASO awarded the second Pan American Winter Games to Santiago, Chile for 1993. The United States warned that it would not take part unless a full schedule of events was held. The Santiago organizing committee eventually gave up on planning the games after the United States Olympic Committee declined to participate, and the idea has not been revived since.[9]

Pan American Sports Organization

The 2007 Pan American Games opening ceremony had announcements in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the official language of Brazil.

The Pan American Games Movement encompasses a number of national and international sporting organizations and federations, recognized media partners, as well as athletes, officials, judges, and every other person and institution that agrees to abide by the rules of the Olympic Charter (which is the same as PASO's charter).[10] As the umbrella organization of the Olympic Movement, the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) is responsible for selecting the host city, overseeing the planning of the Pan American Games, updating and approving the sports program, and negotiating sponsorship and broadcasting rights.[3]

The Pan American Games Movement is made of three major elements:

  • International Federations (IFs) are the governing bodies that supervise a sport at an international level. For example, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is the IF for football (soccer), and the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) is the international governing body for volleyball. There are currently 36 IFs in the Pan American Games Movement, representing each of the Pan American Games sports.[11]
  • National Olympic Committees (NOCs) represent and regulate the Pan American Games movement within each country. For example, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is the NOC of the United States. There are currently 42 NOCs recognized by PASO.
  • Organizing Committees for the Pan America Games (PAOGs) constitute the temporary committees responsible for the organization of a specific celebration of the Pan American Games. PAOGs are dissolved after each Games, once the final report is delivered to PASO.

Spanish and English are the official languages of the Pan American Games Movement. The other language used at each Olympic Games is the language of the host country. Every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these three languages, or the main two depending on whether the host country is an English or Spanish speaking country.[3]


The Pan American Games torch being lit in Teotihuacan.

The Pan American Games Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Pan American Games charter. The Pan American Sports Organization Flag consists of the PASO logo on a white field. The logo (which was adopted in 1954) consists of five concentric circles of yellow, green, white, red, and blue (from the center) around a light blue disc. A blazing torch is superimposed on the rings and disc. The colors of the rings can be found on all the flags PASO member nations. The games motto "América, Espírito, Sport, Fraternité" is written in black in a circle around the outer edge of the center disc. The motto means "The American Spirit of Friendship Through Sports" the words appear in the 4 languages spoken in the Americas: Spanish, French,Portuguese and English. The Olympic Rings were superimposed on the torch by PASO in October 1998 to symbolize its close link with the Olympic Movement. The name of the organization, in English and Spanish appears in black letters along the bottom of the flag. The flag has been hoisted during each celebration of the Games.[12]

Months before each Games, the Pan American Games flame is lit in a similar way as the Olympic flame. In the first games in Buenos Aires in 1951, the torch came from Olympia, Greece. However, since the 1955 Pan American Games, the torch is lit by Aztec people in old temples, first in the Sierra de la Estrella and after in the Temple of the Sun God in the Teotihuacán Pyramids.[13] The only exception was for the São Paulo games in 1963, when the torch was lit in Brasilia by the indigenous Guarani people. An Aztec then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Pan American Games torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city's main stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony.[3] The flame is required to be held during the games in the stadium which will host the athletics competition. If the Opening ceremony and athletics competition will be held in different stadiums, the flame will be required to move there.[3]

The Pan American Games mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[14] It has played an important part on the Games identity and promotion. The mascots of the most recent Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro, was Cauê, representing the figure of the Sun.[15]



A scene from the opening ceremony of the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia.

As mandated by the Olympic Charter, various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Pan American Games.[16] The ceremony typically starts with the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem.[16] The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance, and theater representative of its culture.[16] The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Guadalajara Games reportedly cost $20 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.[17]

After the artistic portion of the ceremony, the athletes parade into the stadium grouped by nation. Argentina is traditionally the first nation to enter in order to honor the origins of the Pan American Games. Nations then enter the stadium alphabetically according to Spanish Language, with the host country's athletes being the last to enter. During the 1995 Pan American Games, which was hosted in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the Argentin flag entered the stadium first, while the Argentinan delegation entered last. Speeches are given, formally opening the Games. Finally, the Pan American Games torch is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the final torch carrier—often a well-known and successful athlete from the host nation—who lights the Pan American Games flame in the stadium's cauldron.[3]


Athletes gather in the stadium during the closing ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games.

The closing ceremony of the Pan American Games takes place after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes who enter together, without any national distinction. Two national flags along with the Flag of PASO are hoisted while the corresponding national anthems are played: the flag of the current host country, and the flag of the country hosting the next Pan American Games.[3] The president of the organizing committee and the president of PASO make their closing speeches, the Games are officially closed, and the Pan American Games family is invited to participate at the next Pan American Games. The Pan American flame is then extinguished.[3] In what is known as the Antwerp Ceremony, the mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers a special Pan American Games flag to the president of PASO, who then passes it on to the mayor of the city hosting the next Pan American Games.[3] After these compulsory elements, the next host nation briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theater representative of its culture. The closing ceremony also includes a fifteen minute presentation from the next host city.[3]

Medal presentation

A medal ceremony during the 2007 Pan American Games.

A medal ceremony is held after each Pan American Games event is concluded. The winner, second and third-place competitors or teams stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals.[18] After the medals are given out by an IOC or PASO member, the national flags of the three medalists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medalist's country plays.[19] Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, as they aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag-bearers.[20] For every Pan American Games event, the respective medal ceremony is held, at most, one day after the event's final. For the men's marathon, the competition is usually held early in the morning on the last day of competition and its medal ceremony is then held in the evening during the closing ceremony.


Swimming has been held at all sixteen editions of the Pan American Games.

According to Pan American Sports Organization rules all 28 current Olympic sports, plus other optional sports (such as bowling) that is popular throughout the Americas can be played at a single games.[3]

The Pan American Games program consists of 36 sports, 40 disciplines and nearly 400 events. For example, Equestrian is a Pan American Games sport, comprising three disciplines: Dressage, Eventing and Show jumping. It is further broken down into six events for both men and women as a mixed gender competition.[21] Athletics, swimming, fencing, diving, baseball, boxing, basketball, equestrian, football, artistic gymnastics, rowing, wrestling, shooting, tennis, weightlifting and water polo are the only summer sports that have never been absent from the Pan American Games program. Current Pan American Games sports, like rugby sevens, Handball, and volleyball, first appeared on the program at later editions of the games. Some sports that were featured in earlier Games were later dropped from the program.[22]

Pan American Games sports are governed by international sports federations (IFs) recognized by PASO as the global supervisors of those sports. There are 36 federations represented at PASO. There are sports recognized by PASO that are not included on the Pan American Games program. These sports are not considered Pan American Games sports, but they can be promoted to this status during a program revision that occurs in the first PASO session following a celebration of the Pan American Games.[3] During such revisions, sports can be excluded or included in the program on the basis of a two-thirds majority vote of the members of PASO.[3] There are recognized sports that have never been on an Pan American Games program in any capacity, including chess and surfing.[23] There are some sports that have been competed just once, such as Sambo which was only competed in 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela and Futsal which was only competed in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Champions and medalists

Swimmer Thiago Pereira of Brazil holds the gold medal he won in 2007.

The athletes or teams who place first, second, or third in each event receive medals. The winners receive gold medals, while the runners-up receive silver medals and the third-place athletes are awarded bronze medals. In events contested by a single-elimination tournament (most notably boxing), third place might not be determined and both semifinal losers receive bronze medals. PASO does not keep statistics of medals won, but National Olympic Committees and the media record medal statistics as a measure of success. As of the 2011 Pan American Games, Aruba and the British Virgin Islands have yet to win a medal.[24]

The top ten nations all time at the Pan American Games (minus medals won at the Winter Pan American Games):[24]

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  United States 1841 1372 941 4154
2  Cuba 839 566 524 1929
3  Canada 372 588 731 1691
4  Brazil 287 318 459 1064
5  Argentina 279 301 399 979
6  Mexico 199 258 459 916
7  Venezuela 85 182 257 524
8  Colombia 81 134 197 412
9  Chile 39 85 133 257
10  Puerto Rico 27 79 121 227

Host nations and cities

Map of Pan American Games locations (host cities in red dots). Countries that have hosted one Pan Am Games are shaded green, while countries that have hosted two or more are shaded blue.

The host city for an Pan American Games Games is usually chosen six years ahead of their celebration. The process of selection is carried out in two phases that span a two-year period. The prospective host city applies to its country's Olympic Committee; if more than one city from the same country submits a proposal to its NOC, the national committee typically holds an internal selection, since only one city per NOC can be presented to the Pan American Sports Organization for consideration. Once the deadline for submission of proposals by the NOCs is reached, the first phase (Application) begins with the applicant cities asked to complete a questionnaire regarding several key criteria related to the organization of the Pan American Games Games.[3] In this form, the applicants must give assurances that they will comply with the Olympic Charter and with any other regulations established by PASO's Executive Committee.[3] The evaluation of the filled questionnaires by a specialized group provides PASO with an overview of each applicant's project and their potential to host the Games. On the basis of this technical evaluation, PASO's Excutive Board selects the applicants that will proceed to the candidature stage.[3]

Once the candidate cities are selected, they must submit to PASO a bigger and more detailed presentation of their project as part of a candidature file. Each city is thoroughly analyzed by an evaluation commission. This commission will also visit the candidate cities, interviewing local officials and inspecting prospective venue sites, and submit a report on its findings one month prior to the PASO's final decision. During the interview process the candidate city must also guarantee that it will be able to fund the Games.[3] After the work of the evaluation commission, a list of candidates is presented to the General Session of PASO, which is assembled in a country that must not have a candidate city in the running. The members of PASO gathered in the Session have the final vote on the host city. Once elected, the host city bid committee (together with the NOC of the respective country) signs a Host City Contract with PASO, officially becoming a Pan American Games host nation and host city.[3]

By 2015, the Pan American Games will have been hosted by 16 cities in 10 countries. Mexico and Canada are scheduled to host three Pan American Games, more than any other nation. Among host cities, only Winnipeg and Mexico City have played host to the Pan American Games more than once, each holding that honor twice.


Games Year Host
I 1951 Argentina Buenos Aires, Argentina
II 1955 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico
III 1959 United States Chicago, United States
IV 1963 Brazil São Paulo, Brazil
V 1967 Canada Winnipeg, Canada
VI 1971 Colombia Cali, Colombia
VII 1975 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico
VIII 1979 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico
IX 1983 Venezuela Caracas, Venezuela
X 1987 United States Indianapolis, United States
XI 1991 Cuba Havana, Cuba
XII 1995 Argentina Mar del Plata, Argentina
XIII 1999 Canada Winnipeg, Canada
XIV 2003 Dominican Republic Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
XV 2007 Brazil Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
XVI 2011 Mexico Guadalajara, Mexico
XVII 2015 Canada Toronto, Canada


Games Year Host
I 1990 Argentina Las Leñas, Argentina

Participating nations

All forty-two countries whose National Olympic Committee is recognized by the Pan American Sports Organization compete at the Pan American Games.[25]

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Virgin Islands

See also


  1. ^ Toronto 2015 Bid brochure
  2. ^ a b "Parapan American Games". Americas Paralympic committee. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Pan American Sports Organization. "Pan Am Regulation". Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Pan Am Games gets going today". Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Pan American Games". Dressage Canada. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Mexico City March 12 - March 26". COPAG. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Beijing to build convenient Olympic village". The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Olympic Charter" (PDF). International Olympic Committee. p. 61. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Pan American Sports Games". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Olympic Movement". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sport Program". COPAG (Organizing committee for the 2011 Pan American Games. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Pan-American Sports Organization". Flag of the worldwide website. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  13. ^ COPAG (April 15, 2011). "Pan American Spirit to Light up Mexico". Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  14. ^ "VI Pan American Games - Cali (Colombia) 1971". QUADRO DE MEDALHAS. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  15. ^ "XV Pan American Games - Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) 2007". QUADRO DE MEDALHAS. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c "Fact sheet: Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games" (PDF). International Olympic Committee. February 2008. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Costará más de 20 mdd inauguración de los JP". El Occidental. September 4, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2011.  (Spanish)
  18. ^ "Olympic Games - the Medal Ceremonies" (registration required). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Symbols and Traditions". USA Today. September 12, 1999. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Medal Ceremony Hostess Outfits Revealed". China Daily. September 18, 2008. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Equestrian Technical Manual". COPAG. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Olympic Sports of the Past". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved 02011-07-11 July 11, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Recognised Sports". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved July 21, 2011. 
  24. ^ a b "General medals gained (1951-2007)". COPAG. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  25. ^ "The 42 present countries in the Panamerican games Guadalajara 2011". COPAG. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 

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