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Mexico's Guadalajara ready to inaugurate Pan American Games

(Xinhua)

16:23, October 13, 2011

MEXICO CITY, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Mexico's second largest city of Guadalajara are all ready for this week's grand inauguration ceremony of the 2011 Pan American Games.

After multiple construction delays, political squabbles and security concerns, the residents of Guadalajara had all but started to lose enthusiasm to be host city of one of the most prestigious sports tournaments in the Americas region.

But with the Games scheduled to open on Friday, the attention now is focused on the competitive aspects of what will be the biggest multi-sport competition in the Americas this year.

"Politicians are always going to continue squabbling among themselves, but at this time, everyone here is focused on sports," organizing committee spokesman Juan Jose Martinez told Xinhua.

And as enthusiasm has been growing for what is expected to be a spectacular opening ceremony on Friday, organizers said that 95 percent of all tickets have been sold for the Pan American Games events.

"People are very enthusiastic. Tickets for all sports are almost sold out," Martinez said."Six months ago, there were tickets for anyone. Now, there aren't six tickets anywhere."

Organizers expect to welcome 3,003 athletes from 42 countries in North, Central and South America, along with the Caribbean, who will compete in 41 different disciplines.

Countries such as Mexico and Cuba plan to send their senior national teams to compete in the games while other countries, including the United States and Canada, plan to send less-experienced athletes to the Pan American Games and will treat the event as a competition for developing future Olympians.

Organizers have built more than a dozen new stadiums in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, in addition to a baseball venue in Lagos de Moreno, 200km northeast of the city. The resort city of Puerto Vallarta, to the west of Guadalajara, will host the beach volleyball, sailing, triathlon and open-water swimming competitions.

Many of the venues have received positive reviews, including the newly build aquatic center in the Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan.

"It's one of the most modern in the world. FINA has rated it above the 'Cube' in Beijing," Martinez said. "All of the swimmers that have been here said that it's one of the best pools in the world."

The swimming venue will be in high demand after the games close on Oct. 30 as the International Swimming Federation (FINA) already has awarded Guadalajara the spot as hosts for the 2017 World Swimming Championships.

Guadalajara had planned to take advantage of its new facilities and bid for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games but problems with financing, however, forced Mexican officials to abandon those plans for now.

All of the facilities will be managed by Jalisco state officials after the Games and used to develop future national-level athletes, Martinez said.

Several of the facilities were not completed until the last minute and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) did not certify the athletics stadium until Tuesday. Organizers were forced to relocate the facility on short notice to the north side of Guadalajara due to environmental concerns at a previous location.

The athlete's village opened earlier in October after a series of delays forced it to be relocated from a park in central Guadalajara to the far western outskirts of the metropolitan area.

Challenges remain due to the Wednesday arrival of Hurricane Jova, which threatened to damage the beach volleyball stadium in Puerto Vallarta, but organizers drew a sigh of relief after the hurricane made landfall and all the facilities for the Pan American Games were reported to escape damage.

Security has also remained a challenge for organizers as Mexico's problems with organized crime violence flared in Guadalajara earlier this year, but the city of 4.4 million residents has been relatively calm ever since.

Martinez said 5,000 federal, state and municipal police officers will protect the event, which he predicted "is going to be a unique experience for Guadalajara residents."


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