Pan American Games

pan american games

The Pan-American Games are an international summer sports competition that occurs every four years. Referred to as the “Pan Am Games” for short, this multi-sport event is similar in many ways to the Summer Olympics, though it involves only countries from North and South America. In fact, the organizational structure of the Pan Am Games is based on the Olympic Charter. The event has a rich history of high-level competition, and numerous medal-winners at the Pan Am Games have gone on to have success at the Olympics and in professional sports. Read on to find out all about the Pan Am Games.


The format of the Pan Am Games is modeled after that of the Summer Olympics. First of all, the event is held every four years, in the spring or summer of the year preceding the Summer Olympics. This timing allows Pan Am events in many sports to be counted as qualifiers for the Summer Olympics. The 2023 Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, will have the highest number of Olympic qualifiers in history, with 33 different sports using the Games as partial or final qualifiers. Secondly, the sporting program of the Games is also modeled after the program of the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Since the first Pan Am games in 1951, the program has expanded well beyond traditional track and field events, following the footsteps of the Olympics. In total, 39 sports are included in the Games. According to the Games Regulations, if a sport is added to the Olympics, it will be added automatically to the Pan Am Games. Additionally, the organizers of the Games have added a few sports that are not a part of the Olympics but are very popular in the Americas. These extra sports often only are contested for one or two iterations of the Games before being dropped, such as Futsal. When deciding what sports will be included, the local federations of the host country make suggestions which the Panam Sports Organization votes on.

The Panam Sports Organization (PASO) is the international body that administrates the Games. It was formed as an association of national sporting bodies in 1948 with the purpose of creating and executing a Pan-American multi-sport competition in the tradition of the Olympics. The PASO holds meetings of national sports federations and Olympic committees on a regular basis, fostering cooperation and competition among its 41 member committees. In a similar way to the International Olympic Committee, the PASO also decides where their Games will be hosted. Cities that desire to bid for the Games must first submit their application to their own national Olympic Committee. After that, PASO researches the bids from each city that has gotten the blessing of their Olympic Committee. After consideration of several factors influencing a city’s fitness to host, the PASO Executive Board selects a list of official candidates. After another round of extensive research and investigation, the PASO General Assembly holds a vote to determine the winning candidate. This process is completed six years before the Games’ scheduled date.


The rules of each sport in the Pan Am Games follow Olympic sporting regulations. This applies to all the sports at the Pan Am Games that are Olympic sports. For those that are not, the international governing body for that sport provides the playing rules. For the most part, there has not been much controversy or intrigue surrounding on-field rule violations at the Pan Am Games.

Eligibility and anti-doping rules also follow the Olympic Charter. In this area of concern, there have been several scandals and cheating issues throughout the history of the Pan Am Games. As a result, the Panam Sports Organization has implemented stringent protocols in the 21st century to prevent violations and punish those who attempt to cheat. Based on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) framework, the PASO publishes its Panam Sports Anti-Doping Rules. These rules are effectively the same as those of the Olympics and provide for an accredited WADA lab to process samples during and after the Games.


The history of the Pan Am Games begins in 1940 at the first Pan American Sports Conference. At this meeting, delegations from several countries met up and determined that the first Pan Am Games would be held in 1942. However, the continuation of World War II delayed these plans. After the war, in 1948, PASO was established, and in 1951, just three years later, the inaugural Pan Am Games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These Games were a great success for Argentina, who topped the medal count standings. The next edition of the Games was awarded to Mexico City, Mexico, and was a similarly-sized event to the previous edition in Argentina. The Games made their way to the United States for the first time in 1959 when the city of Chicago hosted after Cleveland backed out for monetary reasons. From the first Games to the 1975 Games, the size and scope of the event stayed fairly constant. The number of nations hovered around 25 to 30, and the number of sports was roughly 20.

In the mid-70s, the Games began to expand dramatically in terms of both the diversity of sports and the number of nations represented. By the 1991 Games in Cuba, there were 39 nations participating in 28 sports. These Games were memorable for the rumored bias of officials and judges in favor of hosts Cuba, under the influence of noted sports fan Fidel Castro. Nonetheless, Cuba topped the medal table in their home country, marking the first time since the inaugural Games that a country other than the United States had ranked first. Since 1991, the Games have continued to grow and have traveled to more countries, including the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Peru, and in 2023, Chile.


What are the Pan American Games?

The Pan American Games (Pan Am Games) are an international multi-sport event held every four years and organized by the Panam Sports Organization (PASO). They are structured on the Olympic Charter. The competition acts as a final Olympic qualifier for North and South American countries in 33 sports, as it is held the year before the Summer Olympics. It has been hosted by numerous countries throughout the Americas, including three times in Canada and twice in the United States (Chicago in 1959 and Indianapolis in 1987).

What sports are played in the Pan American Games?

Sports at the Pan Am Games number 39 in total, including track and field, aquatics, basketball, equestrian, and much more. Every sport which is on the program for the upcoming Olympics is played at the Pan Am Games. As a result, if the Olympics decide to add a new sport for the upcoming cycle, the Panam Sports Organization will automatically add that sport to the program for the next Pan Am Games. Additionally, there are sometimes sports included in the Pan Am Games which are not Olympic sports.