In an very positive evaluation of the 2007 Pan American Games just held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the head of the United States delegation, Steve Roush. praised the Brazilian friendliness as well as Rio's natural beauty besides the competition venues and the Pan American Village.
Roush talked about his experience during the games and the lessons he learned.
What was your impression of Rio de Janeiro Games' Organization Committee and the organization of the Pan American Games?
CO-RIO has done an exceptional job in running the 2007 Pan American Games. The Athlete Village will remain a hallmark from which villages in the future will be measured at all Olympic and Pan American Games. Many of the venues were beautiful and made for excellent competition. A true indication of how well-run these Games were is that whenever an issue was brought to their attention, CO-RIO would find a quick and appropriate remedy.
What kind of U.S. teams came to Rio de Janeiro?
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and sport federations sent the athletes that all deemed would benefit from their experience here in Rio. Some sports were able to provide excellent opportunities to their emerging-elite athletes while others found this to be an excellent way to prepare their national teams for their World Championships later this year.
Did the U.S. have a medal goal coming into these Pan American Games and did you reach that goal?
No, we didn't have a numerical goal. Our main performance goal centered around maximizing our 2008 Olympic qualification opportunities. We are very pleased with our results in those sports.
Can you see a number of Olympians from this U.S. Team in Beijing?
I would estimate that roughly 25% of our team in 2008 will have been a part of our delegation here in Rio.
What are some of the memories you'll take back from these Games?
Three main things I will take away from my experience here in Rio. One, the Brazilians' ability to live life to the fullest and enjoy it. Two, the beauty of the landscape and beaches. And three, the great friendships that I have made with so many people of Brazil that will last for years to come.
Best-Ever Pan Am Games
"Rio de Janeiro hosted the best-ever Pan American Games." Those were the words of Mario Vasquez Raí±a, president of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), during the Games' closing ceremony held Sunday, July 29, at Rio's Maracanã Stadium.
Even though calling the last games (Olympic or Pan American) the best has become a tradition and a friendly gesture by the world's sports organizations heads, many people believe Raí±a was sincere.
The ceremony was marked by alternating musical styles, with Brazilian and artists from other Latin American countries taking turns occupying the stage set up in the center of the Maracanã stadium.
The meeting of famous MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) artists and Mexican mariachis represented the transition from Rio de Janeiro to Guadalajara, the Mexican city which will host the next Pan American Games in 2011.
Just as was the case at the Games' opening, a spectacle of lights and fireworks marked their close. When the Pan American pyre was extinguished, 2,500 dancers performed a choreography representing the birds in the 2007 Games' logo.
Brazilian singer Lenine, Uruguayan songwriter Jorge Drexler, Cuban singer Yusa and Ramiro Mussoto from Argentina were all involved in this Latin American musical encounter.
Brazilian artist Elza Soares gave the final performance, singing sambas and, accompanied by a choir, the song "Cidade Maravilhosa" ("Marvelous City"), Rio de Janeiro's unofficial anthem, which was composed by André Filho.
In his closing speech, the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Rio de Janeiro Games' Organizing Committee (CO-RIO), Carlos Arthur Nuzman, said that Brazilians had shown their capacity for organizing large-scale sporting events.
Now the Olympics
Honorary president of FIFA, soccer's governing body, and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), João Havelange, 90, attended the Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games' women's soccer final, held at Maracanã Stadium on July 26.
The former athlete, who participated in the swimming competitions at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the water polo competitions at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, was impressed by what he saw in Rio.
"As a Brazilian, I feel really proud. The success in the organization of the Games is proof that Rio de Janeiro is capable of hosting any kind of big event," said Havelange, who won the silver medal in water polo at the 1951 Pan Am Games in Buenos Aires.
"I have been active in sports for more than half a century, but I confess that I was amazed by the outstanding way the Brazilian Olympic Committee organized and ran the competitions. I am thrilled to have seen that the country really is prepared to host the World Cup, and even the Olympic Games.
The evidence is right in front of our eyes," concluded the former president of FIFA, for whom the stadium built especially for the Rio Games was named. It is popularly known as the "Engenhão", a reference to the neighborhood where it is located.
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