Colombian President Alvaro Uribe recognized the success of the 9th South American Games, which culminated Tuesday in a colorful closing ceremony held in the streets of host city Medellin, in front of thousands of fans.
The closing ceremony included a festive street parade, which featured performance themes ranging from classical music to voodoo, with gigantic puppets and performers dancing and shimmying down Medellin’s San Juan Avenue to delight the crowd.
Uribe congratulated winning Colombian athletes and all those involved in the organization of the international sporting event, including the Mayor of Medellin, the Governor of Antioquia, and the nation’s sports bodies.
Uribe said he hoped that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would look to the success of these games when considering future Olympic venues, and said that Colombia is a strong candidate country for the Panamerican Games, Junior Olympics and even the Football World Cup.
IOC member, Peruvian Ivan Dibos, said that the level of organization and quality of venues [at the South American Games] surpassed what was necessary for a games of this size.
IOC member and a vice president of the South American Sports Organization (ODESUR – the organization that oversaw the games) Colombian Andres Botero, said he was surprised at the enthusiasm and interest of Medellin’s residents in the event.
“We’ve shown the world the city, that went through so many difficulties in the past – that was looked as the crime capital – is now the sports capital of the world,” Botero said.
Medellin mayor, Alonso Salazar, recognized the economic boost the games had brought to the city.
“Sport is an essential part of life… and like culture it also moves the economy,” Salazar told El Colombiano
The games attracted 6,000 foreign tourists and 5,900 domestic visitors, resulting in an average hotel occupany rate of 68.13%, according to Salazar.
The building of new infrustructure provided new jobs with a monthly average of 2,442 people working directly on construction and 3,150 employed in jobs related to the development.
The games village in Ciudadela Nuevo Occidente employed 1,001 service staff, including 36 “mothers” who washed 99,000 sweaty outfits for the athletes, El Colombiano reported.
These games were Colombia’s most successful ever, with the Andean nation dominating the gold, silver and bronze medal tallies.
Fifteen countries from Latin American and the Carribean participated in the international event, which included several non-Olympic sports, such as bowling, squash, taekwondo and roller sports. At the latter in particular, Colombia showed its clear dominance.
The next South American games will be held in 2014 in Chile’s capital city Santiago, which lost the 2010 bid to Medellin.