Miami’s ongoing effort to host the Pan Am Games and perhaps someday the Olympics got a boost when sport leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere met here to discuss future events.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez welcomed delegates from the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) and U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun to a symposium on the Americas’ Best Practices on National Olympic Committee Management and Sport Performance.
“Our vibrant community represents a joining of the rich and diverse Pan American cultures, making it the perfect backdrop for this important symposium,” Gimenez said.
Gimenez envisions Miami as a natural fit to be a Pan Am Games or Olympic city. So does local businessman Ralph Garcia-Toledo, who is carrying the flame passed on from his father, who advocated bringing major multi-sport events to South Florida.
“It’s our dream,” Garcia-Toledo said. “If we can get the Pan Am Games, we would be en route to become an Olympic host.”
The Pan Am Games, the “Olympics of the Americas” involving 42 countries and 3,000 athletes, is held every four years in the year preceding the Summer Olympic Games. The 2015 Pan Am Games will be held in Toronto. Garcia-Toledo said Miami could position itself as the U.S. bid for the 2019 Games. He’s using Rio de Janeiro as an example; Rio was host of the 2007 Pan Am Games and will be host of the 2016 Olympics.
“Brazil used our model for the Pan Am Games and proved they were capable of handling the Olympics,” Garcia-Toledo said. “Rio beat out Chicago, which was eliminated in the first round, and a lot of the people who voted for Rio were right here for this meeting, and have an excellent impression of Miami.”
Two of them are powerful members of the International Olympic Committee — Mexico’s Mario Vazquez-Rana, head of PASO, and Carlos Nuzman, head of Brazil’s Olympic committee.
During Nuzman’s visit, he cut a finger on a glass carafe and had to be treated at Mercy Hospital, Garcia-Toledo said.
“While at the hospital, he was attended by doctors from Panama and Colombia and a nurse from Uruguay,” Garcia-Toledo said. “He said, ‘This is what I’m talking about — Miami is truly the gateway of the Americas. The Pan Am Games would feel at home here.’
“A lot of these delegates have investments or homes in Miami. Their kids go to school here. They travel here, shop here. We have strong ties with them.”
A Miami bid would utilize South Florida’s college and pro sports facilities, as well as dormitories at the University of Miami and FIU.
“We would have to tweak some things, build a velodrome and find a good place for rowing,” said Garcia-Toledo, who got hooked on Olympic sports when his father took him to the 1979 Pan Am Games in Puerto Rico and the 1983 Games in Caracas, where he met Michael Jordan. “We’re an outdoor city, with plenty of hotel rooms. We would have to convince the USOC first, but we have so much working in our favor.”