Lima sets Pan Am priority

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

In Lima, Carlos Paz Soldan, president of the Peruvian Olympic Committee, has been lobbying for more than a year to pull the country into the mainstream of international sports. He aims to get there with the 2015 Pan Am Games.

In Bogota, the head of the Colombian Olympic Committee has been calling on favours to get the 2015 Games. He is connected. He is well known. He is respected. He has friends with votes.

So, should the bid committee trying to get those same Games for the Golden Horseshoe be concerned about arriving late to this dance?

"They've been at this longer than we have," says Jagoda Pike, president and chief operating officer of the Toronto-area bid committee.

"I don't, quite frankly, know if that makes any difference. I don't get any impression that they're in any better state of readiness than we are. Lima originally was believed to be bidding as a practice run, with the real objective being the 2019 Games."

But at the encouragement of Lima's president, Alan Garcia, governments have ramped up preparations said Soldan. Until Toronto's entry Lima was emerging as a surprise favourite in the bidding.

"The government has started to work with athletes to push sports," Soldan says. "We could have our athletes ready in seven or eight years and it would coincide with the Games. It would be a big celebration."

Streets are being paved. There's a new airport and an Olympic village site.

"We have a coliseum for basketball and volleyball. We have an Olympic-size swimming pool. The mayor of Lima is working with us ..."

In Toronto, Mayor David Miller has endorsed the local bid but often sounds a bit like a reluctant bride.

Bogota has Andres Botero, supposedly one of the new golden boys in the Olympic movement. Colombia does have frosty relations with Ecuador and Venezuela, that has included guerrilla fighters and gun pointing. But voters in South America may have become as immune to rumours of the latest palace revolt as Toronto has to gunfire in the night.

"One of the problems Bogota has is high altitude. If it was me doing the lobbying I'd be going to all the Caribbean delegates and asking if they want their athletes competing (at 2,600 metres) above sea level," says a veteran of these international arm-twisting contests.

The completion of bid books by April is the next major step for each city. Theoretically, anyway. But Dick Pound, who once carried the biggest stick for Canada with the IOC, once mused to friends that the bid book "is the biggest piece of fiction ever written."

There is evidence the books, which detail plans, are not to be taken Biblically.

About 30-40% of venues often change between bid book and actual events.

"Vancouver has already changed more than 30%," a source familiar with IOC workings says. "What you do is put in your best effort but promise the minimum. In the Pan Ams it's more a concept, so when the organizing committee gets going they can deliver what is promised."

Meantime, lobbying by Pike & Co. has begun. In January they appeared before the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees, including 20 members with a vote on a host city. Lima and Bogota failed to show.

"Our job is to put forth the best possible bid," Pike says. "Beyond that you have to build relationships ... listen to the voting delegates and be responsive to their issues."

So it begins. A game in which today's reality can become on voting day in November, only a mirage.


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