Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomesportGames-Pan Am sport channel could be answer to Games' problems, says Lewis

Games-Pan Am sport channel could be answer to Games' problems, says Lewis

SANTIAGO : Athletics great Carl Lewis, the Pan American Games’ most illustrious alumnus, paid a visit to Santiago on Saturday offering his support for the troubled quadrennial event and suggesting the key to survival could be a Pan Am sports channel.

Limited to a handful of recognisable athletes, the Pan Am Games, like the Commonwealth Games, have struggled to get noticed and remain relevant in an increasingly competitive sporting landscape.

With other competitions such as world championships taking priority, the region’s top athletes have been lukewarm about adding the Pan Ams to their schedules while countries are also thinking twice about hosting these second-tier multi-sport competitions.

The Commonwealth Games are desperately searching for a city to step up and take on their 2026 event after Australia’s Victoria withdrew as host while Chile was awarded their first Pan Ams by default when Buenos Aires, the only other contender, pulled out.

There are close to 7,000 athletes from 41 nations competing in Santiago but in many countries the event is getting little attention, particularly in the Games’ biggest market the United States.

The U.S. consistently brings one of the biggest contingents to the Games and regularly finishes at the top of the medals table yet the biggest media outlets have largely ignored the event.

Lewis, a nine-times Olympic gold medallist, compared the status of the Pan Am Games in the United State to that of athletics, which remains a niche sport even though Americans dominate at the Olympics and world championships.

“Times are different, in the United States especially,” said Lewis. “We are all fighting for television, everyone’s fighting for attention.

“We are in the middle of a streaming evolution that I think is going to be good for sports.

“I think in the future we will have a Pan Am Sports channel and events like this will have their own channel.

“It’s a great opportunity when you look to the future and how we will present our sport.”

The opportunity the Games offer now is mostly to up-and-coming athletes, who are often getting their first taste of international competition as was the case for Lewis.

Lewis’s connections to the Pan Am Games run deep.

His mother competed in the hurdles at the first Pan Ams in 1951 in Argentina while he made his international debut as a 17-year-old at the 1979 Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning a bronze in the long jump.

He would compete again in 1987 when Indianapolis was the host, winning gold in the long jump and 4x100m relay.

“In Puerto Rico in 1979 who would have thought I would be where I am,” said Lewis, who still owns the Pan Am Games long jump record. “It never starts, until it starts.

“I think it is so important we are here.

“It’s wonderful to be able to look back and see the young people and their dreams coming true and we are able to understand what their future might be like.”

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