Colombia is trying to keep alive its scarce options to retain the 2027 Pan American Games in Barranquilla, after this week the international sports entity publicized its decision to cancel the venue and look for alternatives, due to Colombia’s failure to comply with the payment deadlines which had been set. The sporting and political scandal has been huge in recent days, with cross accusations and political justifications that have convinced almost no one. Until today, what is known is that Panam Sports, the entity that groups the 41 American Olympic committees, has decided to change the venue, snatching from Barranquilla the hosting of the 2027 Pan American Games.
In the days following this decision, both the Colombian Olympic Committee, as well as several ministers and even the Colombian presidency are trying to reverse the resolution and retain the games. President Gustavo Petro sent a letter to Panam Sports expressing his “willingness and commitment to overcome any obstacle”. However, Colombia’s options are few, as Panam Sports has never before reversed a decision of this magnitude once it has been made public. The opening of the call to find a new venue adds pessimism to the options that the Colombian government is trying to keep alive.
Contradictions in the Ministry of Sport
Although the non-compliance with Colombia’s payment commitments began as early as 2022, with the previous government, it has been the current officials of the Ministry of Sports who have worn out the patience of the directors of Panam Sports. The payment of eight million dollars to be made by Colombia was to be divided between the national government and the local and regional governments of the city of Barranquilla and the department of Atlantico.
However, the ministry asked Panam Sports for a change in the payment schedule, which was accepted by the sports organization. Under the new agreement, the first payment was to be made on December 30, 2023 and the second at the end of January 2024. However, at the end of the year, Panam Sports did not receive the first payment and decided to unilaterally cancel the contract with the Barranquilla venue.
According to the Colombian Ministry of Sports, the payment was not made due to a “cash flow” problem in December. However, in a meeting held by the minister herself, Astrid Rodriguez, on November 8 at the headquarters of the Colombian Olympic Committee, she claimed that her ministry already had the eight million committed.
“Minister Astrid Rodriguez reiterated that the Ministry has the 8 million dollars, which had to be transferred in December, and proposes the Colombian Olympic Committee as a go-between to transfer the resources”, can be read in the minutes of the meeting.
Representatives of the Colombian political opposition have already called for the resignation of the Minister due to this case, which has disconcerted the public.
Call for the election of new venue
Another blow to Colombia’s chances of retaining the Pan American Games is the opening of the call made by Panam Sports to choose a new venue for the 2027 games, which were to be held in Baranquilla. This was announced yesterday, January 5, by the international sports organization.
It should be recalled that three cities showed their interest in hosting the 2027 Pan American Games, two of them from Mexico, taking advantage of the preparations for the 2026 World Cup, and another one in Brazil that would bring forward its application, which had been agreed for the 2031 games.
Through a letter signed by the president of Panam Sports, the invitation is sent out to the directors of the Olympic committees of the 41 member countries to formalize their interest, meet the required criteria and the organisers will study the applications.
“Due to the rejection of the host city of Barranquilla due to breaches of contract, Panam Sports would like to know if your country is interested in hosting the XX Pan American Games in 2027. If your country wishes to host them, you must notify us in writing by January 31, 2024,” the statement reads.
Extraordinary Meeting in February
The last Colombian options go through the extraordinary assembly of Panam Sports, scheduled for next February. The government of Gustavo Petro will try to convince the sports entity to reconsider its decision, although it is clear that if an alternative city for the 2027 games is announced, the Colombian hopes will be definitively buried.
So far, no action or reaction from Panam Sports indicates that it is considering changing its position. On the contrary, yesterday’s public call to look for alternative venues would indicate that the decision to cancel Barranquilla’s options is firm.
The next few days will be key to confirm a decision that will surely bring political and economic consequences for Colombia.