Colombia Working to Restore Barranquilla as PanAm Games Host City After Rights Were Stripped for Breach of Contract
Colombia has added a new medal of shame to its history of failure as an organizer of major sporting events.
First, it was the winning bid for the 1986 World Cup that Colombia later abandoned. Then came the nationwide protests during the pandemic that put an end to scheduled plan to host Copa America 2021 in tandem with Argentina.
Photo: A press photo released by PanAm Sports in August 2021 when Barranquilla was named host of the 2027 games. (Credit: PanAm Sports)
Now, most recently, at least for the moment, the country may have lost its bid to host the 2027 Pan American Games in Barranquilla.
The news hit on January 3 when the the Pan American Sports Organization (PanAm Sports) issued a statement that “its executive committee has unanimously decided to withdraw Barranquilla, Colombia, as the host city of the the XX Pan American Games” due to “several breaches of the host city contract.”
According to the organization, Colombian officials involved in the contract in October requested an extension to meet certain requirements. But that December 30 deadline was not met, per PanAm Sports, and it thus made the decision to strip the coastal metropolis of its hosting rights.
“Since the new deadline passed with no response, on January 3, 2024, the Panam Sports executive committee has made the unwavering decision to remove the rights to be the host City of the continental Games in 2027.”
Now, officials in Colombia, including President Gustavo Petro, are scrambling to reinstate the city’s hosting rights, which were initially awarded in August 2021, and chalking up the event to misunderstandings and internal mishaps that can still be resolved.
The Ongoing Campaign for PanAm Games Host Reinstatement
The Colombian Ministry of Sports was the entity tasked with paying the host city fees on time, and while the “why” remains unclear and the subject of ongoing infighting in Colombia, what is agreed upon is that the $4 million USD payment never reached PanAm Sports.
This actually wasn’t even the first missed payment. Ciro Solano, president of the Colombian Olympic Committee, affirmed in an interview with El Espectador that during the previous government led by President Iván Duque, a first payment due in 2021 was also missed.
This older history was expanded upon by Ernesto Lucena, then-minister of sports, in an interview in El Tiempo.
“I was at the Ministry of Sports until June 2021,” Lucena told El Tiempo. “The promise of the contract, as can be seen in the documents, was signed on May 30, 2021, and there the first actions during that year are stipulated: pay $250,000 USD, which is done by the city of Barranquilla, create the Games Committee, and start the negotiations.”
Regardless of the history, Petro, among others including the Office of the Comptroller, has asserted that the funding has been budgeted for and is asking PanAm Sport to reconsider.
Petro sent a letter to PanAm Sports on January 5, and he has spoken with Barranquilla Mayor Alejandro Char to discuss how they can recover the event.
On January 9, in a press conference, Petro further explained that his government has always been willing to host the 2027 Pan American Games and that the government is prepared to submit the $8 million USD in owed fees. Petro said he was working to speak with PanAm Sports head Neven Ilic and even Chilean President Gabriel Boric.
“We have met and outlined a recovery plan for the Pan American Games in Barranquilla and the Caribbean,” stated Petro. “What we want to notify is that the $8 million, by way of concession of rights for the Pan American Games, are ready. They could be drawn at any time if the party to the agreement considers it appropriate. There is no problem to transfer the resources needed … but due to ignorance we did not comply.”
As of now, the 2027 Pan American Games has no venue.