RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Panamerican Games organizers gave themselves top marks as the event finished on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if FIFA and the IOC will be as impressed when they ponder Brazil’s World Cup and Olympic bids.
After spending close to a reported $2 billion on the 15th Panams, Brazilians are expecting a big return on their investment in the form of the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Summer Games.
The only country bidding for the 2014 World Cup, Brazil will present their formal proposal to FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, on Tuesday while the country’s sport minister Orlando Silva was equally positive the 2016 Games were heading to the South American nation as well.
“I would like to invite you all back to participate in the 2016 Olympics,” Silva told reporters in is closing media conference. “We are ready to look for other events and to go after an Olympic candidature.
“Brazil showed we are capable of hosting a multi-sporting event in which 42 countries and more than 5,000 athletes were taking part.”
While Silva’s invitation may be premature, Rio is almost certain to be rated a top contender among a list of Olympic bidders that is likely to include Chicago, Tokyo, Doha, Prague and Baku, Azerbaijan.
With first-class venues and opening and closing ceremonies that would rival any Summer or Winter Games, the Rio Panams had the slick, glossy look of an Olympics.
The Panam Games, however, also exposed glaring shortcomings.
The country’s infrastructure and organization skills were far below the standards required of an Olympics, Rio’s transportation system teetering on collapse for most of the fortnight while workers and volunteers often appeared overwhelmed.
The plane crash at Sao Paulo’s Congonhas airport that left nearly 200 people dead and a dark cloud hanging over the Games’ opening week, underlined concerns over Brazil’s ability to safely move people and teams around the country.
The Games unfolded without any major security gaffes but as the Panam flame was extinguished on Sunday, Rio residents were bracing for a return of the violence and crime that plagues the city as thousands of police and military staff return to their regular duties elsewhere in the country.
But for 16 days, Brazilians forgot their problems and united behind their athletes.
From the boxing ring to beach volleyball on Copacabana, Brazilians had plenty to cheer, collecting 161 total medals, including 54 golds for their best-ever showing at a Panam Games.
Swimmer Thiago Pereira and soccer player Marta emerged as the Games’ two biggest stars.
Pereira exited with six swimming gold medals, breaking the single games record held by American great Mark Spitz while Marta led Brazil to victory over the U.S. in the soccer final.
After accepting her gold medal, Marta stepped off the pitch into a cement mould and into soccer immortality, becoming the first woman to join Pele and other Brazilian legends on the Maracana Stadium walk of fame.
Once again, there were no world records set at the Panams but there were also no positive dope tests prompting Mario Vazquez Rana, the president of PASO (Panamerican Sports organization) and Mexico IOC (International Olympic Committee) member, to declare the Rio Games the cleanest ever.
Jeered mercilessly, American athletes won few fans but once again left with the lion’s share of medals, topping the table with 97 golds and 237 total medals, over 100 more than second-placed Cuba.