The final deadline for Barranquilla 2027 has passed. BARRANQUILLA 2027

President Gustavo Petro has once again failed to honour his commitments, further diminishing the chances of winning back the Pan American Games, which were cancelled on 3 January due to breaches of contract.

Colombia's President Gustavo Petro had set 30 January as the crucial date for the country to regain the right to host the 20th Pan American Games in Barranquilla. As time passed with no progress and the deadline for the second installment of the guarantee payments passed, the prospects of hosting the games on the Atlantic coast faded.

Recent revelations suggest that not only did Petro not travel to Chile (as he had planned to do last weekend, citing internal problems related to significant forest fires in the South American country) to meet with Panam Sports President Neven Ilic, as he publicly stated in a press conference, but that he did not even formally request a meeting with Panama Sports.

Barring a miraculous turnaround occurs, Barranquilla will not host the upcoming Pan American Games. Despite Petro's previous declarations that he would do everything possible, including political lobbying through his foreign ministry (which is banned by the International Olympic Committee and therefore by Panam Sports), little action has been done.

Colombia had repeatedly committed itself to honouring the financial guarantees, which it failed to do despite several deadlines and renewed commitments. The latest deadline was 31 December 2023, but the first payment of the $4 million (out of a total of $8 million pledged) was not made. The second payment was due on 30 January, a deadline set by the Colombian president for the Games to be reinstated, but it has also not been made.

Panam Sports had previously announced the irrevocable withdrawal, and if there was ever any doubt, it now seems increasingly certain that Barranquilla will not host the 2027 event.

Faced with criticism from almost the entire political spectrum of the Colombian opposition, the president, in office since August 2022, posted on the social media platform X: "As far as I know, the 30th of January has not arrived. It's the 21st", clearly indicating the ongoing efforts to regain the organisation of the Games."

Heavily criticised for not responding to the demands of Panam Sports and for downplaying a damning letter outlining the reasons for withdrawing the possibility of the Atlantic capital hosting the world's second most important sporting event after the Olympic Games, the poist did not acknowledge the mistakes of the previous government led by Iván Duque.

He was the president on 21 January 2022, when Colombia received the first letter demanding the fulfillment of the commitments, which went unanswered. In response, Panam Sports said it continued to send letters to enforce the contract. "On 13 September 2022, another letter was sent to the Colombian authorities with no response." This has already happened with the current president.

The Colombian government's breaches included failing to pay the promised $4 million for the media rights concession, which was due by 30 July 2023. They also allegedly failed to fulfill their obligation to provide Panam Sports with a work plan and an insurance policy for $50 million in US currency.

Gustavo Petro, the President of Colombia. GETTY IMAGES
Gustavo Petro, the President of Colombia. GETTY IMAGES

Finally, Panam Sports also stated that in October of the previous year, it had reached an agreement with Astrid Rodríguez, the sports minister in Petro's government (who, according to the Colombian media, may be on her way out), Jaime Pumarejo, the mayor of Barranquilla, and Ciro Solano, the president of the Colombian Olympic Committee. 

They had requested a new extension for the first payment, which the continental sports body agreed to. The new deadline sets 30 December 2023 as the payment date for the first half of the $8 million pledged, and 30 January 2024 for the remaining $4 million. 

"As you know, what was established in the extension signed and agreed between the parties has also not been fulfilled," reads the Panam Sports document. "The Games are the most important multi-sport event in the Americas; they are the great desire of all athletes and it is the responsibility of Panam Sports to ensure the faithful fulfillment of the signed contracts, guaranteeing an excellent event for the athletes of the Americas,'' the Panam Sports stated in the strongly worded letter.

In response to this document, President Petro dismissed it with his post on 21 January, or so it was understood, and added to the unease by responding to a Colombian media outlet that referred to the letter. 

With Petro's self-imposed deadline for the new default coming to an end (the last installment expired on 30 January), the recovery of the Games looks like an increasingly difficult, if not impossible, task. Petro could also have attempted a legal consignment (deposit of money related to a contractual debt) to demonstrate a genuine commitment to recovering the event, beyond public statements. 

These are crucial hours that will determine whether there is a reversal by Panam Sports or, on the contrary, whether the "irrevocable" decision is confirmed and ratified by the vote of the Executive Committee. In the meantime, the new host will have to emerge from the assembly, which could choose between Asuncion and Lima, the two cities that have been formally presented so far. 

Although there are strong rumours that Lima would withdraw if Colombia regained the right to host the Games, or al least beeing in the running, Barranquilla cannot present itself as the host after losing it. Another Colombian city could be presented,  but it is unlikely to happen. The chances for Colombia seem sealed.