Gustavo Petro calls for the 2027 Panam Games to be returned to Colombia. GETTY IMAGES

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has called for the obstacles to be removed and for the Pan American Games to return to Barranquilla, following the unequivocal withdrawal announced by Panam Sports a few days ago.

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has spoken out in favour of the return of the Games, after several days of absolute silence following Barranquilla's loss of the organisation of the twentieth Pan American Games, scheduled for 2027. 

The economist, who was elected on 7 August 2022, appealed to the organising body of the Pan American Games to "overcome" the obstacles" and return to Barranquilla the rights to host the 2027 edition, which were withdrawn this week due to repeated failures by his government. 

Last Wednesday, Panam Sports announced its "irrevocable" decision to take away the organisation away from the Caribbean city, triggering a cascade of criticism against the leftist leader who had shown enthusiasm for hosting the games in his country. 

The president of the Colombian Olympic Committee (COC), Ciro Solano, had recently admitted that his country and the Colombian Ministry of Sport had failed to meet their obligations (not paying the first of two installments of US$4 million) and expressed hope for administrative and political solutions. 

In a letter addressed to the head of Panam Sports, the Chilean Neven Ilic, and his executive committee, Petro said: "As President of the Republic (...) I am writing to you to express our will and commitment to overcome every obstacle that has led to the announced decision." He also reiterated that Colombia is fully capable of organising and hosting the 2027 continental event.

In keeping with his political history, the president does not admit to any mistakes beyond what his government officials quietly, and some publicly, admit to. The statement released to the media by the presidency made no mention of his government's non-compliance, which led to the withdrawal of the headquarters of the Pan American Games from the northern South American country. 

His statements can be seen as an attempt to put out the fire that has been lit within his own government by the economic and political mismanagement of sports policy, which has been a flagship of Colombian politics in recent decades. The loss of the hosting rights is another serious blow for Petro. The opposition in Congress is planning a "vote of no confidence" in Sports Minister Astrid Rodríguez, accusing the government of negligence. 

The 63-year-old president's lack of interest has been evident throughout the process. Although he was invited to the Panam Games in Chile, he did not attend in November to receive the competition's flags from his Chilean counterpart, Gabriel Boric. This gesture was not taken into account in the decision to exclude Barranquilla as a host city. It was due to the city's persistent failure to meet deadlines, despite extensions and postponements. 

The fate of the Colombians appears to be sealed, with the president of the COC admitting that it will be almost impossible to regain the lost hosting rights, although they are holding out hope until the decision is ratified by the assembly and another host is appointed.

As far as possible replacement hosts are concerned, Asunción has taken the lead and appears to be the most solid, although not the only one. The state of São Paulo and its capital, São Paulo, the economic engine of Brazil and as large as several South American countries put together (45 million people, equivalent to the total population of Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador), has shown interest and is exploring political and economic support. 

Another city interested in hosting is Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, with the aim of repeating the 2011 Panam Games 13 years later. They have already announced plans to renovate all the sports facilities in this city of 1.5 million people in western Mexico. 

They also have the advantage of being one of the venues for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which would allow them to use some of the sports, tourism and transport infrastructure that has been developed. This is what the general director of CODE Jalisco, Mr Fernando Ortega Ramos, said on his X account (formerly Twitter).

Samuel García, the Governor of Nuevo León, also expressed similar feelings on his social media account, stating that they believe it is possible and that they have the infrastructure to host the most important sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games.