By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru may be enjoying their best ever Pan Am Games on the medal table but the Lima organising committee is not winning any awards yet as transportation foul-ups and other issues continue to challenge the two-week showcase.
Early glitches are expected at every multi-sport event from the Olympics to the Asian Games but the Lima organising committee has faced mounting problems, particularly from a creaky transport setup.
The glow from a spectacular opening ceremony and a dream start that included two marathon golds on the first day of competition have begun to fade as the realities of staging the largest ever sporting event in Peru hit home.
Lima organisers quickly corrected issues with the results management system but transport remains a headache.
“We have encountered some early challenges, as many major sports events often do,” Lima 2019 spokesperson Carlos Manuel Lazarte, told Reuters in an email.
“But overall Lima 2019 is very pleased with how the Pan American Games have been delivered and with the running of the competitions.
“Transport is always a challenge, we have been working around the clock.”
Almost from the moment Lima was awarded the Pan Am Games, organising transportation in a city notorious for chaotic traffic was identified as a major potential trouble spot.
Getting around a city of close to 10 million with an ageing infrastructure and a meagre mass transit system is a challenge at the best of times but during the Games even the shortest trip can take hours, leaving both locals and visitors frustrated.
As bad as the traffic has been, Lima is bracing for worse next week as two of the biggest sports, athletics and swimming, get underway at the same complex all while the cycling events bring more road closures.
“We hired over 100 additional drivers, increased the frequency of buses, optimised the transport timetable with the competition schedule, and established a transport help desk,” said Lazarte. “We have seen significant improvements in the service today, but we will continue to monitor and make further changes as needed.
“Similarly, we identified the issues with the results system very early on and have since rectified them.”
Adding to logistical issues, venues are spread over a vast area with some difficult to access.
The Villa Maria Del Triunfo sports complex, which stages rugby sevens, field hockey and other events, is sandwiched between two towering favelas — the impoverished neighbourhoods offering a stark contrast to the sparkling new facilities.
Just prior to the opening of the Games last Friday, both the United States and Canada re-issued travel advisories warning against non-essential travel to parts of Peru.
The U.S. State department cautioned citizens to exercise increased caution in Peru due to crime in and around Pan American/Parapan American Games.
“The safety and security of every participant at these Games is our number one priority,” said Lazarte.
“While independent transportation and areas outside the Games venues are out of our control, we are working hand-in-hand with all relevant security authorities to ensure everyone can enjoy the Games safely, and over 23,000 police officers have been deployed throughout the city.”
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)