Panam Sports President Neven Ilic has claimed the decision to keep the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima was one of the best decisions of his life, while he called for Governments to invest in the next generation of athletes.
Ilic reflected on the build-up to this year’s Pan American Games in Peru’s capital and the aims of Panam Sports during a presentation at Regional SportAccord Pan America here today.
The Chilean was elected as President of Panam Sports in mid-2017 and conducted an immediate visit to Lima, when preparations for the Games were ailing.
Construction progress at the Athletes' Village and other key venues had been considered key issues.
Ilic admitted taking the Games away from Lima would have been a "simple" decision at the time, but said joint efforts between Panam Sports and Lima 2019 ultimately ensured the event was delivered.
"We thought we should start believing in what we were seeing, we did not see a lot but we believed if we started joint work we would make it," he said.
"It was a decision that was not easy, I can’t even tell you if it was responsible.
"I can tell you it was one of the most important and best decisions I have taken in my life.
"The Games had many consequences and one of them was that it generated a pride in that country that they had never felt.
"Our countries in the region are conflicted, but the Games helped to generate an incredible peace among the people of Peru as they were proud of what was happening in the country.
"They realised the world was watching them and it reinforced their support for the Games.
"I felt proud.
"The [Peru] President [Martín Vizcarra] was telling us ‘you do not know how important this has been for the people of our country, you brought peace to us during those three weeks’.
“We are becoming harmonised in our efforts to offer the best for the public, the media and the athletes.”
Ilic also looked ahead to the inaugural Junior Pan American Games in Cali, due to take place in 2021.
He claimed the event was necessary to provide younger athletes with a key development opportunity, with gold medallists qualifying for Santiago 2023.
Ilic revealed he hope this would help ensure Governments, National Olympic Committees and Federations took a more long-term view on athlete development.
"Our countries do not have the budget to bet on the new athletes and create a new generation of athletes," he said.
"We usually have a short-term view.
"As Panam Sports we need to promote athletes and take a long-term view.
"Panam Sports is attempting to give athletes tools and make them feel a part of our organisation.
"We are making sure they are well represented and are part of this world."