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  • On the Record: What's Next for PASO


    (ATR) The Pan American Sports Organization heads into a new era.

    A day after a March 8 memorial service in Mexico City for Mario Vazquez Rana, the 18 members of the PASO executive board met for 10 hours to plot the course of the organization after the 40 year rule of Don Mario.

    The group came up with a plan to cover the remaining year of the four-year term of Vazquez Rana, received assurances about the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto just months away and reassured the 41 National Olympic Committees of the Americas that the finances of the organization are firmly in the black.

    The meeting produced consensus that Uruguay NOC president and IOC member Julio Cesar Maglione should be elected as a caretaker president. Maglione, 79, said he is willing to take the job but not permanently. An extraordinary general assembly, the second of this year, is scheduled for April 11 in Miami to confirm Maglione.

    Until that happens, first vice president Ivar Sisniega of Mexico, leads the organization in the absence of the president. He chaired the March 9 executive board meeting that ran from morning to night. He spoke to Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula the next day about the next steps PASO will be taking without Mario Vazquez Rana at the helm.

    Around the Rings: Obviously, the decision or steps you took as far as the presidency goes was one of the big decisions. What was that all about? It seems like a bit of a surprise that there would be a move like that.

    Ivar Sisniega: I think there seems to be some uneasiness among the NOCs, and I think this is just a move to calm that down. To make sure the transition president … as Julio stated, he is not seeking to be president of PASO in the future, so I think that gives everybody … the sensation and the reality of even ground for anyone who wants to be president in the future.

    ATR: Did you take it personally, that they wanted someone else?

    IS: No, not at all. I had many people come up to me and say they were happy with the way we’re running things. I don’t take it personally at all. It’s about the unity of the organization and making sure we have a smooth transition.

    ATR: When Julio Maglione takes over in April… does he have an agenda that the executive board has created that needs to get done?
    Sisniega speaks at a PASO memorial service for Mario Vazquez Rana on March 8. (ATR)

    IS: I believe everything that we discussed yesterday will continue to be discussed. We are moving forward, and Julio has stated that he wants the people who are operating to continue operating to make sure we have certainty, especially with the Toronto games. He stated specifically that Mike Fennel and I should continue to be in charge of the coordination of with Toronto, to ensure the success of those games.

    We made contact with Lima and we’ll probably be visiting Lima in the next few months, to establish good organizing guidelines for 2019. We also started to look at ways to manage the PASO funds and to make sure that, on the one hand we support the NOCs, which the main concern, but at the same time we leave a legacy, and we ensure that there is a fund that will keep PASO going forever, and I think that was a key part of the discussion yesterday, which was very constructive.

    ATR: Is there anything that became complicated because of Mario Vazquez Rana’s death? Any decisions that he had been delayed making, or actions he delayed, that you need to act on now that he’s gone?

    IS: It’s a completely new style of governance, but I think there is the capacity of the executive board to carry on – definitely a much more collaborative and participative – we expect different people to provide their strengths to the executive board, and that means we will be seeking more specialists, people to review our television contracts, to review the contracts with the organizing committee.

    What it’s going to lead to perhaps a more structured PASO, less a one-man show. At the same time, everybody recognized all throughout at the meeting that we were able to do this thanks to the legacy that was left behind by Mario.

    ATR: Back to the Pan-Am Games, as far as Toronto goes, is everything okay there? Is there anything outstanding that you needed to address, or are they on track?

    IS: We had a report by Marcel Aubut, which shows we’re certainly on track regarding most of the operational aspects, such as facilities. We’re doing test events in most of the sports. The village is to start receiving furniture and being furnished in the next few weeks. I’ve reviewed the menu, for example, and they’re at the level of Olympic Games.

    We’re pleased with everything the organizing committee is doing. We’ll be focusing over the next months on making sure that all the conditions are there so all the countries can get the television signal. That’s something we’re a little behind on, and we want to ensure that. That’s going to be our focus over the next couple of months. The coordination commission will be there at the end of April to finalize all the details.

    ATR: So that’s a matter of selling rights, or making them available?

    IS: Our single rightsholder for the continent is TV Record, from Brazil. And they have to resell them, and we are assisting them and working with the NOCs and making sure that all the countries are serviced.

    ATR: Is that for South America or is that for North and South America?

    IS: It’s for the whole continent. That was one mario’s legacies was that he sold the rights for the whole continent to TV Record for the whole continent. This is the first time this has been done through a third party, so we need to assist TV Record, and make sure they’re able to finalize agreements with all the countries.

    ATR: Is the US one of those that needs to be finalized?

    IS: I don’t remember exactly who it was, but they’ve already got some rights sold in the US. I’m not sure if it’s the full range of rights, but they do have something.

    ATR: What’s going on in Lima? Is there a special group being formed for Lima?

    IS: We’re going to name a coordination commission, and at the same time, probably after Julio is ratified, we will program a visit, and seek a meeting with the president of the country, but also have a workshop with all the team.
    We want to make sure they’re set to go to Toronto. It’s really important for them to go to Toronto, to have their top people in Toronto for the whole games. As I said in the meeting yesterday, for the people in Guadalajara the best school was being in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

    ATR: What is the reaction to the new organizing committee formed in Lima? Is everybody comfortable with the change?

    IS: We’re comfortable. I know unofficially José Quinones will be the first vice president. The president of the organizing committee is a member of the executive board of the Olympic committee, a successful businessman. They clearly thought of a structure with the long term capacity to reach 2019, because the government will change next year. The way this is set up we believe it will have permanence and continuity.

    ATR: Were you expecting this change to happen, or did the new organizing committee run by the government sort of just come out of the blue?

    IS: We were expecting it. It’s normal. It’s actually in our statutes. The PASO statutes state that normally the NOC should not head the organizing committee. The case in Guadalajara, where the money came from the government, it needs to be a government structure in order to be able to be audited, and to follow government guidelines for using the money, so yes, this was definitely expected. I have had some conversations with the government during this past month, so we knew this was coming and that’s why we sent Reynaldo down for a two day visit. Most of the things got ironed out.

    ATR: Are things okay? They seem to be making progress moving along towards the games, right?

    IS: Yes, they are definitely progressing. At this point, they’re building city infrastructure and sports facilities, which were promised for the games. My next task is to really make sure the organizing committee is working at full capacity and ready to go by Toronto so they can see what it’s like to organize the games.

    ATR: There’s no group going to Lima this month, correct?

    The PASO executive board meeting in Mexico City (ATR)
    IS: We talked about this yesterday, and we think it should be after the assembly we’re going to have in Miami. After we have ratified the new president then we will have the visit to Lima.

    ATR: What is the role of the United States, in helping prepare and organize this upcoming general assembly?

    IS: We have their full support. I wouldn’t say their full financial support, but we have the full support. They’re going to help us with all the logistics, which are complicated, and with the visas. We have their full support for any help we need.

    ATR: It brings up the question of Miami as a possible location for future PASO headquarters. Was there any discussion about that

    IS: There wasn’t yesterday. I know it’s out there. I believe the headquarters will remain in Mexico City for the time being. I think that will probably be discussed from 2016 on, depending on who gets elected. I know it’s out there and I know many people feel that way.

    Conducted by Ed Hula.

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