(ATR) The Pan American Sports Organization is on the cusp of a sea change two years in the making.
The 41 delegates of PASO will elect their next president at the assembly this week in Punta del Este, Uruguay, bringing an end to president Julio Maglione’s two years of leadership following the death of longtime president Mario Vazquez Rana.
Maglione helped steer the direction of the organization after the loss of its leader and was instrumental in implementing statute changes that clarified and modernized PASO’s constitution. The constitution changes were passed in Doha last November, paving the way for the six-month presidential campaign.
What was once a five-man race has dwindled to three. Chilean Olympic Committee president Neven Ilic, Brazil Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman and honorary life president of the Dominican Republic Olympic Committee Jose Puello are the remaining contenders and each believes he has what it takes to modernize and improve PASO.
For Ilic, the focus is on professionalizing PASO and generating more interest and revenue from youth-based events.
"Today the great challenge is to grow and it will be necessary to professionalize the administrative structure, generate more resources to support the projects of the Olympic committees and generate more projects of interest for private companies in order to incorporate sponsors to the economy of PASO," Ilic told Around the Rings.
Ilic, the youngest of the three candidates at age 55, has led the Chilean Olympic Committee since 2004. He is on the PASO executive board and previously served on the evaluation commission for the Nanjing Youth Olympics. While PASO maintains a healthy relationship with the IOC, Ilic says more cooperation is needed.
"Although PASO is already an organization recognized and highly respected by the IOC, we must strengthen joint work with the IOC in terms of generating economic resources and programs to assist NOCs and athletes, and work to increase the presence of Americans among the IOC members."
Brazilian Olympic Committee chief Nuzman, now 75, has led his NOC since 1995 and agrees with Ilic that PASO must modernize its operations. However, Nuzman tells ATR he is the best candidate to implement these changes given his vast experience in sports administration.
"We have a lot of work to do, but we need to have people with experiences to do this and not people with no experience," Nuzman told ATR in an exclusive interview. "I’ll give back to the Americas my work and my experience."
That experience includes his role as an IOC member since 2000, PASO executive since 2008, president of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro and most recently president of the Rio 2016 Olympic Organizing Committee. Nuzman tells ATR these experiences allow him to bring in marketing and administrative experts that will help modernize and monetize PASO’s properties.
Honorary life president of the Dominican Republic NOC Puello, also 75, has told ATR the most important job of PASO’s next president is to listen to the needs of its constituents.
"Our first execution will be to give a period of 60 days to each NOC to tell us what is the PASO they want to build in the next four years," Puello says. "What are the needs and their sports development programs that we must implement?"
Puello also has experience with hosting the Pan American Games, leading the 2003 edition in his home of Santo Domingo. If Puello is elected, he plans to open an executive office in the capital of the Dominican Republic to supplement the existing PASO headquarters in Mexico City. Having an office in Santo Domingo would also allow Puello to continue his medical practice.
Ilic and Nuzman also support opening secondary PASO offices, but they each propose that the executive offices be stationed in Miami, Florida due to its large international airport that services the vast majority of PASO’s NOCs, making the offices more accessible.
All candidates agree that the organization’s primary goal is to strengthen its flagship Pan American Games. The next edition will be staged in Lima, Peru in 2019 and is currently facing a multitude of challenges with political infighting and severe floods threatening preparations. Candidates believe the Peruvian organizers will be able to overcome the challenges to stage a successful event but would go about offering assistance in different ways.
Puello and Nuzman each plan to visit Lima shortly after the general assembly if they are elected the next president. Nuzman tells ATR he would bring administrative experts to assist the Peruvian authorities and marketing experts to help increase the prominence of the event. Puello says he would meet with all of the stakeholders of the event and forge a new path forward. Ilic did not offer comment regarding the situation in Lima.
The staging of the Pan American Games in Lima will be the first true test for PASO’s next president. The winner of this week’s election will have roughly two years to make sure preparations remain on track and that Peru can overcome the challenges it faces.
This story appeared in the ATR Special Edition Magazine for the LIV PASO General Assembly. Click here to read the entire magazine.
Written by Kevin Nutley
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