Today: Last Update:

  • Lima Mayor Backs Sport for City Future -- On the Record


    Susana Villarán (ATR)
    (ATR) The mayor of Lima, Peru says the 2019 Pan-American Games are part of a strategy to bring sport to as many people in the city as well as the country.

    Susana Villarán says more than $100 million is being invested in sport infrastructure in the city ahead of the Pan Am Games. Besides arenas and other venues needed for the Pan Ams, neighborhood facilities are also being built.

    The Peruvian capital won the right to host the Pan Ams last year, making it second bid for the games. Lima hosted the 2013 IOC Sport for All conference and it is one of the two bids to host the 2017 IOC Session, Helsinki, the other contender. And it’s in the race to win the 2021 World Games, competing against bids from the US and Russia.

    Villarán believes the experience of Lima with the Pan Ams and other events will lead to more hosting for Peru.

    She’s been involved with politics since her teenage days and has been on the ballot plenty of times for city and national elections, including a bid for the Peruvian presidency. Elected in 2010 to her first term, she is in the midst of a campaign for reelection with the first vote set for October 5.

    Villarán spoke with Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula at City Hall last month.

    Around the Rings: You became mayor in 2010, which was about the time which Lima was getting involved with the Pan-American Games. What do you think of that? Is it a good thing for Lima?

    Susana Villarán : It’s an extraordinary opportunity in many senses. We are thinking about the legacy of the Pan-American Games for Lima. Lima is the only capital city in South America that has the Pacific Ocean, which makes it unique. Our cultural and territorial identity and the weather are very important for the Pan-American Games. It’s the first time in Lima’s history to host the Pan-American Games. The legacy of the Pan-American Games on the city is important in many aspects.

    The new velodrome is near completion. (ATR)
    First, we need to invest in infrastructure, but thinking of the city as well as the Games: connectivity and transportation. Investments on infrastructure for sports and the legacy for sports will remain in different territories of Lima for the people and for the daily practice of several sports. That’s a legacy we are willing to leave for Lima, forever, for the people to remember, that the Pan-American Games were good for the city.

    Second: from the moment we were elected at Toronto for the Pan-American Games, we were thinking with the Olympic Committee that the practice of sports is something that needs to be reinforced as public policy in Lima for all the children in all the territories in all the country. In Lima it is a public policy. We are building infrastructure in the city as we speak, even before we knew we would host the Pan-American Games in 2019. We are building infrastructure and promoting sports for all of our children and adults. The massive practice of sport should promote values such as discipline, rules, and equality in our country.

    Third, legacy, we want to promote excellence. We want to win many gold medals! We need a ring of gold and silver medals. Why? We need to have a goal. For instance, two or three weeks ago, we were beside the ocean where we have one of the most permanent and beautiful waves we have for surf, and many people from all over the world come and practice surfing here. It’s part of the municipality of Lima, and we decided to give it to surfing federation to practice their sport. We will build a high-performance aquatic and surfing center there. Also, we have a lot of world champions here in Peru and Lima. It’s these three levels: we need infrastructure that lasts for the people, the massive practice of sports in all disciplines, including breaking the gap that certain sports are for certain economic classes, because Lima is a beautiful city but it’s very unequal, and promoting high performance sports.

    ATR: Where do you find the money? Is that ever an issue?

    SV: It’s always an issue. Lima has the political will, so we will find the money. We have the money, we’re growing economically, and we have the highest growth rate in Latin America right now. We have a very good relation with the national government, and we are working closely with the Olympic committee and the sports committee. We have a team that has been installed a month after Toronto comprised of the national government, the national congress, the city government, and I have to say that the mayor is using sport as a way of social inclusion to increase the pride of the people. I think it’s been working fine, and the Pan-American Games are an opportunity to break the gap between everyone in Lima and give everyone an opportunity to experience all the sports.

    Lima Mayor Susana Villaral and Peru NOC President Jose Quinones at city hall with ATR Editor Ed Hula. (ATR)
    ATR: What is the role of the city, and what is the role of the national government? What does the city do that might be different than the national government?

    SV: The city has all the responsibilities of producing infrastructure, connectivity, transportation, and mobility. We
    are investing in that. All the mega projects we have, we started already and signed the contracts before Toronto, and they will be very useful for the Pan-American Games in 2019. In 2017, all of the infrastructure will be finished.
    The port, the airport, downtown, the city center, and the seaside will be connected north to south and east to west with public transportation and private transportation and pedestrians. All of these investments are our responsibility and competence, and they will be finished by 2017. The total amount is around $7 million in connectivity.

    For sport infrastructure, we are developing with $100 million in different parts of Lima. We have at least 16 major parks of Lima in major territories of the city. Those parks will host several sports during the Pan-American Games. The Pan-American Games are part of our urban plan for the city until 2035. Now the parks project is to create facilities around the city, so any person can practice sport. It’s the first step of the sport pyramid.

    ATR: Now you also have your sights set on other events coming to Lima, such as the 2017 IOC session. You’d like to see that come here? More events as well? World Games?

    SV: We are challenging ourselves. Every day we wake up and ask “what more can we do?”

    ATR: But you’re taking advantage of this experience and this investment and making it for more than just the Pan-American Games?

    SV: Exactly. That’s the idea, the legacy of the Games. Each step we are taking in this path to 2019.

    ATR: Is sport an issue in the election you’re in right now?

    Susana Villarán campaign billboard (ATR)
    SV: No, I’m the only one who has sports in the government program. The last four years in this country have changed a lot. For the first time in history, national and city authorities will believe that sport is really important for the quality of life of our population. We have invested more in the last four years than maybe our entire history put together, and people are happy. When we got back from a press conference in Toronto that was open to the public, an old lady from El Augustino called to say, “Give them all the money they need! I want my nephews to practice sport.” And this is one of the first places where people migrated from in the 1950s. The people have developed a lot, but they still have housing problems and other problems. But we have a major park there, and we have invested $20 million in the park for sport and recreation.

    Here, we are building because downtown is a historic place. We don’t have space for practicing sports, so we have to innovate. We are building vertically, we’re building multisport arenas. In 1,500 meters, we built 3,500 meters of sports facilities. We have more than football, we have everything, and we are building the second arena. If the people gave me their confidence this October, I think that the multisports facility is a smart investment. The city can afford it. It’s for the community, and the federations are going there. They are helping us support children and the youth to prevent criminality and drug abuse. It helps the lives of all these children and young people. We need one of these facilities in each neighborhood, and I would rather build these facilities than invest in prisons.

    Conducted by Ed Hula. Transcription by Andrew Murrell.

    For general comments or questions, click here.

    20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is, for subscribers only.