Michael Pavitt ©ITG

Camilo Pérez López Moreira is among the newest cohort of International Olympic Committee (IOC) members after being elected as part of the class of 2018 at the organisation's Session in Buenos Aires.

Pérez said at the time it was the "biggest achievement" of his career.  

It continued the businessman's rise through the sports governance ranks after he became a Panam Sports Executive Committee member in 2017, before joining the Association of National Olympic Committees Council last year.

The 50-year-old Paraguayan is an influential sporting official in South America, where he serves as the President of no fewer than three organisations.

As well as being the Paraguayan Olympic Committee President since 2011, Pérez has led the South American Tennis Confederation (COSAT) for six years and in 2017 took up the same role at the South American Sports Organisation. 

He could add another role to his growing portfolio in the coming weeks, after being confirmed as one of 34 candidates seeking one of 14 places on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Board.

The Board will be determined on September 27 in Lisbon, where the main attraction of the ITF Annual General Meeting will be the election of the governing body's President.

Pérez outlined his path into sports governance and his passion for tennis during an interview at the Pan American Games, where his country celebrated their first gold medal at the multi-sport event.

"Tennis started really early in my life and it was always my passion," he told insidethegames. "It was a family tradition."

The tradition began with Pérez's grandmother Matilde Marsal, who was Paraguayan national champion from 1938 to 1940.

His aunt Matilde Pérez de Ugarriza and father Camilo Pérez Marsal also took up the sport, with the latter becoming a national level player.

It was then the turn of Pérez himself and his sister Patricia, who was crowned national champion in three successive years from 1985 to 1987.

Having first begun playing at 10, Pérez began competing in national competitions in Paraguay and events across South America from the age of 12 through to 17. Success at these events ultimately led to him becoming the top ranked junior player in his country.

Other commitments meant a fledgling playing career would ultimately stop in the junior ranks, however.

Camilo Pérez López Moreira followed the family tradition and played tennis as a junior ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
Camilo Pérez López Moreira followed the family tradition and played tennis as a junior ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

"I played only at a junior level as I took the decision to get married at a young age," he explained. "There were things more important than tennis at the time, so I had to leave the sport.

"I also entered the family business and prioritised this aspect, which stopped me potentially having a good career as a tennis player.

"When I was really young the family business was going really well, but my father wanted me to gain work experience outside of the business. So, I used to go to school, play tennis and then work in another company outside the family business during the holidays.

"When I got married at the age of 19, I got into the family business and started from there. I worked alongside my father running the business."

Pérez is now the President of Don Camilo S.A after taking over the livestock and real estate company when his father retired. There are efforts to diversify by taking the family into the communications industry. He adds that his son has also entered the business.

While the entrance into adulthood came with increased commitments, it also enabled Pérez to follow another of his interests. One that seems an unusual thing for a future IOC member to have become involved in.

"I was always passionate about motorsport," he said, before agreeing with my suggestion that as a former rally co-pilot he must have been frustrated with the gridlock on the roads of Lima.

"It was something that was forbidden when I was young.

"When I turned 18, I managed to start doing it and it went very well."

He first competed at Paraguay's National Rally Championships back in 1990, aged 21. It was the first in a run of 12 consecutive appearances at the event.

While acknowledging the event was largely amateur, Perez secured the position of official co-pilot for major manufacturers Volkswagen and Toyota.

He celebrated victories at the National Championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2000. The latter year also saw Pérez toast victory at the South American Rally Championships in Misiones.

Camilo Pérez López Moreira represented Paraguay in junior tennis events while he later enjoyed success as a rally co-pilot ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
Camilo Pérez López Moreira represented Paraguay in junior tennis events while he later enjoyed success as a rally co-pilot ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

Motorsport would also provide the vehicle for Pérez to become involved in sports administration, ultimately moving from one type of rallying to another.

"Sport administration started really early for me, but in an indirect way at school," said Pérez, who competed in athletics, football and became a national water-skiing champion, as well as competing in junior tennis events.

"As well as being an athlete at high school, I was really involved in the student council. They started organising events and I had some leadership in this.

"But my first real contact as a sports administrator was in motorsport.

"I became the treasurer of the motorsport body that organised rally competitions in Paraguay and also in South America, helping with the Continental Championships.

"It was at this time, I took the opportunity to start getting involved again in tennis at Club Centenario in Asunción.

"The club had a Board with Commissions and I joined the Tennis Commission. We helped run the tennis competitions which would feature on the national circuit.

"I first started as a junior member, before becoming President of the Commission and then the President of the Paraguayan Tennis Association. This took place within a timeline of four years."

An eight-year spell as Paraguayan Tennis Association President came to an end in 2013, when he took on the top job at the COSAT.

Pérez believes the South American region has grown up a lot in recent years in tennis, where he feels new initiatives have started to bear fruit.

"We started to put together different projects, including training camps and tournaments," he said. "This includes age group masters events for athletes under-16 and under-14.

"We also launched the COSAT Cup for under-12 players, which is not only for South America. It has quota places for Central America, the Caribbean and Canada also.

"We have junior athletes competing and training with each other, with training camps ongoing in 10 countries in South America.

"We support each of the federations with grants to help ensure they can put on tournaments, coming from ITF, Grand Slam and COSAT funds. We have been able to almost double those funds in recent years."

Camilo Pérez López Moreira currently heads the South American Tennis Federation ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
Camilo Pérez López Moreira currently heads the South American Tennis Federation ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

Despite progress, Pérez admits there are still issues which the sport needs to face and address.

"A big challenge we face is that the transition from junior to professional is quite difficult, particularly in the South American region," he said.

"Players have to travel very far to start gaining experience and begin playing players from other parts of the world. It is hard for a South American player to go to Europe and Asia.

"We want to have bigger tournaments in the region, such as 15k events, which would help to aid the transition and reduce costs for players regarding travel."

Recent months has seen criticism from players over reforms to the ITF's World Tennis Tour, the umbrella name for all former pro and junior circuit tournaments. The Tour is claimed to serve as the player pathway between the junior game and the elite levels of the sport.

It is an issue which will no doubt be heavily debated by the four candidates seeking to become ITF President on September 27 in Lisbon.

American David Haggerty is bidding for a second term, but faces challenges from Ireland's Dave Miley, India's ITF vice-president Anil Khanna and the Czech Republic's Ivo Kaderka.

When I ask whether he believes his experience as a player in the junior ranks made him more attuned to issues players may face, Pérez is in no doubt.

"I think my value is that I had been a player and have been able to identify the needs of athletes," he said. "The areas they struggle and the things they go through.

"That not just goes for tennis, but also as President of the Paraguayan Olympic Committee. 

"I can empathise with tennis players but also athletes across all sports. I know the challenges associated with travel, infrastructure and having a coach.

"I can understand the emotional and psychological aspects as well.

"Sometimes sports leaders and coaches will push their athletes to get immediate results. 

"However, it is a process and sometimes athletes fail.

"We need to have patience and support athletes when they need to be supported, as well as pushing them to help them achieve success."

Pérez adds that he does not want to be viewed as a sporting official who is detached from athletes, being sat in the stands.

His Twitter account during the Pan American Games was evidence backing up this assertion. Regular updates showed Pérez meeting with several Paraguayan athletes during the Games.

Perhaps most notably, he provided a sympathetic ear to Camila Pirelli, who appeared to have won a bronze medal in the women's heptathlon event, only for the eventually updated scores to show she had fallen just a handful of points short of a podium finish.

Pérez was unsurprisingly present for Paraguay's maiden Pan American Games gold medal, which came in golf. He was also pictured eating with athletes at the Games Village, as well as taking in a visit to support the country's participants in the tennis tournament.

Development of tennis worldwide is viewed as a key challenge by Camilo Pérez López Moreira ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
Development of tennis worldwide is viewed as a key challenge by Camilo Pérez López Moreira ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

"I like to go to training with athletes and be around the locker room," he said.

"I like to take the time to spend time with athletes, such as having dinner with them at the Pan American Games.

"I want to make sure we have all the things the athletes need, whether that is in the Village or not. Then I have the opportunity to support and watch them be successful in competitions."

It is an aspect Pérez believes he could also bring to the ITF Board, should he be elected in Lisbon.

He acknowledges that there are different needs facing the stars of the game, such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, compared to those lower down the sport's rankings.

The challenges facing athletes competing on the Challenger Tour and development circuits are very different to the top professionals.

"I think there is currently a distance," Pérez said. "We need to address this to bring people closer and have an understanding of what professional and development players think.

"It is important to get the professionals and listen to them. They have made it to be professionals because they are diligent and working hard to do everything to succeed.

"But we also need to hear from the ones who are trying to achieve that aim.

"This information will be essential to create actions to improve the sport."

Money, as always, has been viewed as vitally important in helping to grow the sport and provide resources which would ultimately help those at the top and those seeking to get there.

Pérez has said he will help propose much more aggressive and powerful commercial actions compared to what the ITF currently has in place. He also believes greater strategic alliances with different brands, organisations and companies can be achieved to created added value to strengthen the ITF.

Pérez suggests a marketing department should be developed to work in collaboration with the ITF Marketing Commission to help achieve these aims.

The Paraguayan describes it as a personal challenge to help develop the commercial growth of the ITF, which he believes will in turn trigger greater support for the development of tennis throughout the world.

Finding ways to increase the ITF's revenues is certainly something on the mind of Presidential candidates at the moment.

The Paraguayan Olympic Committee President had dinner with athletes at the Pan American Games ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
The Paraguayan Olympic Committee President had dinner with athletes at the Pan American Games ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

Incumbent Haggerty vowed to increase the organisation's revenue generation and grow the amount of development money invested in the sport to $18 million (£14 million/€16 million) should he be re-elected. The American has pointed to how development funding doubled from $6 million (£4.5 million/€5.5 million) to $12 million (£9.5 million/€10.5 million) during his first four years in the role.

Miley, Haggerty's most vocal challenger, claimed he would aim to double the value of the "global tennis market". Part of this would be achieved by the creation of a joint men's and women's World Championships to be held every two years.

The Irish official has claimed relations with the players and with the four Grand Slams had plunged during Haggerty's four-year spell as President, insisting the ITF needed to be treated with more respect by organisers like the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Pérez, as you might suspect as the head of one of the continental tennis bodies, politely declined to reveal which of the four Presidential candidates he is backing.

He acknowledged, though, the crucial relationships the ITF needs to have to ensure the sport can thrive.

"We need to create one tennis family," he said. "A challenge for the ITF is to strengthen the federation and its ability to work together with the ATP and WTA (Women's Tennis Association).

"It is very important for us to work with the Grand Slams and the four countries that have these tournaments. It is essential we have a good relationship with them.

"We also need to continue making the Davis and Fed Cup tournaments more important and attractive. This would be really good to secure more resources which would be used to promote development of the sport.

"We need to grow, strengthen and build our resources, but these resources must go back into development."

The Davis and Fed Cup tournaments have been the subject of much debate in the past couple of years, with traditionalists wanting to keep their history intact, while Haggerty led the drive to modernise the competitions.

Despite some players and officials speaking out before the vote at last year's ITF Annual General Meeting, with some claiming the reforms would "kill" the 118-year-old Davis Cup, changes were ultimately approved.

The reforms have seen the event transform into a season-ending 18-team event, moving away from the tiered World Group format to a week-long tournament. The first edition of the revamped competition, featuring round-robin groups and a knock-out stage, will take place in Madrid in November.

Backing has been provided by the investment group Kosmos, which was founded and run by Spanish international footballer Gerard Pique and supported by Rakuten chief executive Hiroshi Mikitani.

The Fed Cup has now followed suit, with a total of 12 nations qualifying for the tournament's finals in Budapest from next year.

Pérez was among those to publicly back the changes prior to the vote at last year's meeting in Orlando and remains supportive of the efforts to develop the competitions.

"I am positive about the changes made, I think it is the right way to go," he said.

"On one hand it is a very traditional tournament and I love tradition. The idea is we keep the tradition but adapt to how the world of sport is evolving for both.

"I think some changes were necessary. I think there was a sense that in several regions interest was declining, which made it harder to get sponsors."

Camilo Pérez López Moreira believes his IOC membership can be a benefit to the International Tennis Federation ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira
Camilo Pérez López Moreira believes his IOC membership can be a benefit to the International Tennis Federation ©Camilo Pérez López Moreira

The Paraguayan believes his role within the IOC can assist the ITF as he can provide additional insight from multi-sport events. He also sits on the Coordination Commission for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.

His position on the IOC's Programme Commission, Pérez suggests, could provide information which can assist the ITF in adapting to new trends and challenges within sport.

"As an IOC member you have the benefit of understanding multi-sport Games, which gives you a broader vision of sports," he said. "This could potentially be important for an individual sport.

"At this time sport is changing really fast and the Olympic Movement can detect that. 

"Traditional sports, at some point, will need innovation.

"We get feedback and have presentations of the trends that are going on in sport on the Olympic Programme Commission."

While he sits on the ITF's Olympic Commission, Pérez suggests his membership of the IOC could aid the governing body should he join its Board. He notes that he is one of only two representatives from the sport within the IOC, along with Russia's former tennis player and coach Shamil Tarpischev.

"I want to help contribute this information to tennis," Pérez explained.

"There is a very trendy and young vibe at the moment, which you can see at events. Change is something people are really afraid of, but it is important to listen to people and detect the way things are going.

"An example here in Lima was surfing.

"A couple of years ago nobody would have expected surfing to be on the Olympic programme, but one year before Tokyo and it has been here at the Pan American Games and building to the Olympics. There were full venues and it was really attractive.

"It is really important to follow and learn from these trends."

The ITF and tennis itself appear set to continue to experience a shake-up in one way or another in the coming years. 

Pérez, the former player turned businessman, tennis official and IOC member, believes he has the strings to his bow – or should that be racket – to contribute in multiple areas to help take the organisation and sport forwards.