The final deadline for Barranquilla 2027 has expired

The final deadline for Barranquilla 2027 has expired
Fecha de publicación: 
31 January 2024
Imagen principal: 

President Gustavo Petro has once again failed to meet obligations, practically diminishing the chances of regaining the Pan American Games that were revoked due to contractual breaches on 3 January.

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, had announced 30 January as the crucial date to reclaim the hosting rights for the twentieth Pan American Games and hold them in Barranquilla. As time passed without progress and the deadline for the second installment of guarantee payments expired, the prospects for hosting the games on the Atlantic coast faded.

Recent revelations indicate that Petro not only did not travel to Chile (as agreed for the past weekend, citing internal issues related to significant forest fires in the South American country) to meet with Panam Sports President Neven Ilic, as publicly stated in a press conference, but also did not formally request a meeting with Panam Sports.

Unless a miraculous turnaround occurs, Barranquilla will not host the upcoming Pan American Games. Despite Petro's previous declarations of doing everything possible, including political lobbying through his foreign ministry (which is prohibited by the International Olympic Committee and consequently by Panam Sports), little action has been taken.

It should be noted that Colombia had repeatedly committed to fulfilling financial guarantees, something it failed to do despite multiple deadlines and renewed commitments. The final deadline given was 31 December 2023, but the payment of the first $4 million (out of a total of $8 million committed) did not materialize. The second payment was due on 30 January, a deadline set by the Colombian president to recover the games and settle both outstanding installments, but that also did not happen.

Panam Sports had previously announced the irrevocable withdrawal, and this seems increasingly certain, if there were ever any doubts.

Facing criticism from almost the entire Colombian opposition political spectrum, the left-wing president, in office since August 2022, posted on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter): "As far as I know, January 30 has not arrived. It's the 21st," clearly indicating ongoing efforts to reclaim the organization of the games.

This post, heavily criticized for not addressing Panam Sports' critiques and downplaying a damning letter outlining the reasons for withdrawing the possibility of the Atlantic capital hosting the second most significant sporting event globally after the Olympics, did not acknowledge the faults of the previous government led by Iván Duque. Duque was the president on 21 January 2022, when Colombia received the initial letter requesting the honoring of commitments, which went unanswered. In response, Panam Sports stated that it continued sending letters to enforce the contract. "On 13 September 2022, another letter was sent to Colombian authorities, requesting compliance with the contract according to the stipulated deadlines, receiving no response from either party." This occurred during the term of the current Colombian president.

Among the contractual breaches by the Colombian government were the non-payment of the committed $4 million for media rights concession, due before 30 July 2023. Additionally, they allegedly failed to fulfill their duty of presenting Panam Sports with a work schedule and providing a $50 million insurance policy in U.S. currency.

Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia. GETTY IMAGES

Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia. GETTY IMAGES


Finally, Panam Sports also stated that in October of the previous year, they reached an agreement with Astrid Rodríguez, Minister of Sports in Petro's current government (who, according to Colombian media, may be on the verge of leaving office); Jaime Pumarejo, Mayor of Barranquilla; and Ciro Solano, President of the Colombian Olympic Committee. They had requested a new extension to make the first payment, to which the continental sports organization agreed. The new deadline set the payment dates for the committed $8 million on 30 December 2023, for the first half, and 30 January 2024, to complete the payment of the remaining $4 million.

"As you are aware, what was established in the signed and agreed-upon extension between the parties was also not fulfilled," states the Panam Sports document. "The Pan American Games are the most important multi-sport event in America; they are the great desire for all athletes, and it is Panam Sports' responsibility to ensure the faithful fulfillment of the signed contracts, guaranteeing an excellent event for the athletes of America,'' asserted the Panam Sports executive in the strongly-worded letter.

In response to this document, President Petro dismissed it with his post on 21 January, or at least that was the understanding, causing more significant discomfort by responding as he did to a Colombian media outlet that referred to the letter.

With Petro's self-imposed deadline expiring and the new default (the last installment expired yesterday), recovering the games seems like an increasingly difficult task, if not nearly impossible. Beyond the contractual termination for non-compliance earlier this year, Petro could have attempted a legal consignment (depositing money related to a contractual debt) to demonstrate a genuine commitment to recovering the games, beyond public statements.

These are crucial hours to determine whether there is a reversal by Panam Sports or, on the contrary, the "irrevocable" decision is confirmed and ratified by the Executive Committee vote. Meanwhile, the new host will have to emerge from the Assembly, which may choose between Asunción or Lima, formally presented so far. Although there are strong rumors that Lima would withdraw if Colombia could regain the hosting rights or be in the running, Barranquilla cannot present itself as the host after losing it. While it is true that another Colombian city could be presented, it is unlikely to happen. The chances for Colombia seem sealed.

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