Lima 2019: Learning from London
by Tariq Saleh
Officials from Lima 2019, the organising committee for this year's Pan American Games, have visited London to learn how the London 2012 Olympics left a lasting legacy. Author
13th March 2019, 16:25

Legacy is “the most important thing” for this year’s Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan Games, according to Carlos Neuhaus, president of the organising committee.

In April 2017, Peru appointed the UK as its main delivery partner for the games, in a unique government-to-government agreement. After the London 2012 Olympic Games, considered by many to be among the most successful Olympics in history, organisers aimed to tap into the expertise of those responsible, as Lima seeks to leave a similar legacy.

During a three-day, legacy-focused trip to London, Neuhaus, along with Jorge Munoz, the newly elected mayor of Lima, visited London 2012 venues in a bid to learn how the Pan Am Games could help to regenerate large parts of Lima.

Speaking to Sportcal Insight during the visit, Neuhaus described the games as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a meaningful legacy for the country.”

The Pan Am Games claim to be the second-largest multi-sport event in the world, and Peru will be hosting a sporting event of this magnitude for the first time. The games are regarded as a major opportunity for the country to put itself on the map and prove that it can compete with larger nations to host the biggest sports events in the world, after facing serious challenges, including floods in the north of the country.

Carlos Neuhaus and Jorge Munoz on their visit to London's former Olympic Park

The positive effects of London 2012 are still being felt seven years on in the city, and clear communication and transparency by the London 2012 organising committee - which openly admitted and shared mistakes - are said to have played a crucial part in developing trust with key stakeholders.

Facilities built for the London 2012 games helped to regenerate east London and Stratford, a previously underdeveloped area of the city; likewise, Lima aims to change the face of parts of the city through urban development.

Asked what he hoped to learn from the visit to London, Munoz said: “Especially in terms of urbanism and the way transport can link up different parts of the city, all that is connected to legacy. The tour that we did of the Queen Elizabeth [Olympic] Park was very helpful and useful because we’ve seen how the games transformed a whole part of the city.

“We’ve learnt from some of the good parts of the London games, also some of the mistakes made, but at the end of the day we take home some of the best lessons learned. There’s a lot of hope that the games in Lima will cause an urban regeneration of parts of Lima, like the London games caused in Stratford.”

The redevelopment of the Olympic Park area of east London is widely regarded as a success story, with nearly 10 million people having visited it since it was fully reopened in 2014. The former Olympic Village now houses over 6,000 people.

As Lima 2019 officials conducted their visit to London, they received a setback, with the unwelcome news that Fifa, soccer’s world governing body, had stripped Peru of October’s Under-17 World Cup because of concerns over inadequate organisation and infrastructure.

Peru had won the rights to host the tournament in June 2018 but in a statement, Fifa said that several inspection visits to Peru revealed “a number of organisational and infrastructure challenges linked to the event delivery.”

The Lima 2019 officials sought to play down the news, with Neuhaus expressing surprise at the decision, given that the country is still scheduled to host the South American Under-17 Championship next month.

Neuhaus told Sportcal Insight: “That’s regrettable but we have stadiums ready to hold the South American Under-17 Championship. We have the University of San Marcos, that’s a huge stadium which is almost ready. In that case we are helping the Peruvian federation.”

Lima 2019's Carlos Neuhaus: 'Peru is ready to deliver on the global stage'

Meanwhile, Munoz argued that the successful delivery of the Pan Am Games will overshadow the bad news received from Fifa, saying: “In my opinion it shows how Lima is working now and they are very successful and this guarantees the games, so in one hand we have bad news but in the other hand we have very good news led by Carlos Neuhaus and all his team, so you won’t have to worry about the staging of the games.”

Peru has set out four legacy pillars to try to ensure that the legacy of the games continues to deliver benefits for years to come: economic, social, urban and sporting.

The organising committee spent 98.5 per cent of its budget for 2018 on permanent sports infrastructure, according to its end-of-year budgetary analysis. A total of 966.2 million soles ($286.45 million) out of the committee’s budget of 981.4 million soles for the year was invested in infrastructure projects.

The facilities will transform the sports landscape in Peru, according to Keith Joseph, vice-president of Panam Sports, the body representing the region’s national Olympic committees which owns the games. Joseph said: “We believe that the infrastructure that is being built will be of a world standard. The velodrome, for example, will allow the country to host important events in the future, like the Pan-American cycling championships. [Lima’s swimming] pool will be the most modern.”

Lima 2019 is already planning to ensure that the city will not be left with unused facilities, as it bids to avoid the mistakes made by Brazil. A year after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Leandro Mitidieri, a federal prosecutor, said: “There was no planning when they put out the bid to host the games. They are white elephants today. What we are trying to look at here is to how to turn this into something usable.”

Rio spent about $12 billion to organise the games, and although the scale is different, Rio 2016 serves as a stark warning to Lima of what can go wrong. The first of Lima 2019’s venues was inaugurated this week, as the organising committee opened the baseball stadium in the Villa Maria del Triunfo district of the city.

To guarantee the use of the new stadium after the Pan Am Games, it is earmarked to become the new home of Peruvian baseball. The venue “is evidence that Peru is ready to deliver on the global stage,” Neuhaus said.

The Lima 2019 baseball stadium: earmarked to become the home of Peruvian baseball

The organising committee added: “The handing over of the sporting venue, located in one of Lima’s least developed districts, not only represents a big milestone in the lead-up to the games, but also a demonstration that Peru is investing in its sporting future and is committed to maximising the legacy of the games.”

The San Marcos University soccer stadium was also set to officially open this week and will stage games of soccer’s South American U17 championships next week. The championships offer a chance for the city to show Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, that it has the right infrastructure for this type of event.

As well as the baseball and soccer stadia, Pan Am Games venues include the Lima 2019 Athletes’ Village, the VIDENA Sports Complex, the Villa María del Triunfo Sports Complex, Callao Regional Sports Village, Villa El Salvador Sports Center and the Army Riding School equestrian headquarters.

Promising to “revolutionise sport in Peru for future generations,” Neuhaus said: “Lima 2019 will leave a concrete legacy of 20 new and upgraded sports venues for elite athletes and under-served communities. We are proud to be investing in a world-class games that puts sport at the heart of Peruvian life.”

Sportcal