Starting on July 26th, Peru will host its largest ever international sporting event – the 2019 Pan American Games. 7,000 athletes from 41 countries will take part in 424 events around the country, and will be competing for places in the 2020 World Olympics, to be held in Tokyo, Japan.
Most events will take place in and around Lima, where new facilities have been built for the event. Watch cycling in the brand-new velodrome, athletics in the national stadium or bodybuilding, featuring for the first time. Further afield there are canoeing events at Lunahuana (Cañete), surfing at Punta Negra and sailing at Paracas.
Pan America, Peruvian style
As usual, many aspects of the Games reflect the host country, like the logo of the tournament. This year’s logo is based on an indigenous Andean flower while the Games cauldron is in the form of the Peruvian national flower – the cantuta.
The Games mascot – Milco – pays homage to cuchimilco, small ceramic figurines which acted as guardians of the afterlife, in Chancay culture burials. Milco’s tunic is white and red, which reflects the Peruvian flag.
The Torch Journey
The torch journey within the games illustrates the legacy of culture to the communities involved. The Pan American Flame is ignited in the Plaza of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico in a traditional ceremony celebrating the local ancient Aztec culture. The flame will then be taken directly to Cusco in Peru, which is the birthplace of the Incan empire. From there the torch will travel across 5,500kms over 23 days passing through 23 cities, plus Machu Picchu.
In Inca times, the native runners – chasquis – were renowned for running everywhere carrying messages for the Inca but this has not translated into victories in Olympic style sporting events, as Peru stands at 18th in the current overall medal table.
There are a few sports that are unique to the Pan American Games, such as Racquetball, or Basque Pelota. Racquetball, a combination of handball and squash, is the youngest sport ever to be recognised by the United States Olympic Committee, while Basque Pelota, similar to squash originating from Spain, as is popular across the Americas.
All American sporting fans, especially Peruvians are fanatical supporters of their teams at the games. Expect to see lots of flags, face paint, and cheering. Listen out for Brazil’s iconic chant, “Eu sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor” (I’m Brazilian, with a lot of pride, with a lot of love), Argentina’s, “Vamos Vamos Argentina” (Go, Go Argetina) or the USA’s “Boom Boom Clap”.
Like any sport, rivalries play a large factor in the atmosphere at events. Peru will try to beat Ecuador, Brazil, and Chile, yet have a friendly rivalry with Argentina. Peru’s best hopes of winning gold is with their female karate athletes, Alexander Grande and Alessandra Vindrola, who claimed gold and bronze respectively at the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am Games.
As the second-largest Games, this year’s event will not disappoint. With events taking part across seventeen days, 39 sports and 62 disciplines, there is guaranteed to be something for everybody. Competing to qualify in the 2020 Olympics, the athletes will be giving their all and are sure to put on a good show. Keep a close eye on the track events, where Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, the two fastest female runners in the world, look to add more medals to their trove.
About the Author
John Forrest is a teacher and writer based in London. He first travelled to Peru in 1981, after graduating with a BA Comb.Hons in Geography and Statistics from Exeter University. He returned to Peru regularly to lead study tours and to research, write, and publish his own travel guide. He is a committee member of the Anglo-Peruvian Society and continues to visit Peru as Chairman of the Tambopata Reserve Society.
Culture Smart! Peru: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture
Page count: 168
Dimensions: 171 x 108 x 13mm
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