With two years until the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, Leyla Chihuán, a former elite athlete and coordinator of the Peruvian Congress Sport Group, warns of the lack of sport managers: “We are not prepared to guarantee the success of the Games”
In two years, the capital of Peru will, for the first time in its history, host the 2019 Pan American Games, after winning in a vote in which they defeated Santiago (Chile), La Punta (Argentina) and Ciudad Bolívar (Venezuela). The organization of a sporting event of such magnitude is a development opportunity for a whole country and, in the race to create opportunities that is now two-thirds over, Lima seems still to be a long way from the finishing line.
Leyla Chihuán has been one of the most important figures in Peruvian volleyball and since 2011 she has been defending the interests of the sport in her country through politics. Leyla, now a congresswoman and coordinator of the Peruvian Congress Sport Group, attended the Sport Management program developed by the Johan Cruyff Institute for the Peruvian Sports Institute in 2014. The following year, she studied the Master in Football Business and Administration at the Johan Cruyff Institute Peru.
“As a former athlete, I got to know the sports system from a privileged perspective; I now seek to channel this experience in favor of Peruvian sport and this has been reinforced by my studies at the Johan Cruyff Institute”
In this interview, we talk with her about how Lima is doing in the face of this commitment that the city took on six years ago before the whole country and the international community, how much remains to be done, and what is needed at the management level in order to guarantee the success of the Pan American Games. “At the moment, we do not have the conditions to ensure success,” says the congresswoman.
Is Lima prepared to organize the 2019 Pan American Games for the first time in its history?
In 2009, Peru unsuccessfully bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games and tried again in 2013, under the motto “We are Ready”, but the reality is that with just over two years to go until the Pan American Games and Parapan American Games, the conditions are not there to ensure their success. A great opportunity has been missed to carry out urban regeneration projects to benefit the whole city. If they had applied principles such as “urban acupuncture”, today we would be saying that the city is in the process of development thanks to the Games.
What are the most important challenges of being the venue for the biggest sporting event in the Americas?
There are a series of challenges that go from the management of the city, to our capacity of organization, not only in sport, but also at state level; and of course, it will be a challenge at the sporting level. It is a shame that the debate has been reduced to the sporting issue. The fact that the Pan American and Parapan American Games are a challenge that serve as a pretext to expand the debate on government policies, is something about which little or nothing has been said.
What projects have already been carried out and what projects are still pending?
None of the new projects have begun to be built. The location of some venues is still being reconsidered. According to the schedule presented on October 10, 2016, in the Congress of the Republic, the works were to begin in December 2016, but this has not happened. In February the Comptroller General of the Republic indicated a delay in the works as indicated in the Master Plan. According to the new schedule presented by COPAL (the Organizing Committee of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games), the works will begin in September.
Johan Cruyff created the Johan Cruyff Institute to offer career opportunities to athletes after the end of their sports career and because he was convinced that properly trained athletes are the people best suited to lead the sports industry. Do you agree?
More than a career opportunity, for me Johan Cruyff’s training offer provides an opportunity to capitalize on the experience of athletes to benefit the development of the sports industry. In my case, having a sporting career of more than 15 years in Europe and having participated in various international competitions, two Olympic Games and three World Championships, has allowed me to get to know the sports system from a privileged perspective. All this experience that I now seek to channel in favor of Peruvian sport has been reinforced by my studies at the Johan Cruyff Institute.
You achieved major successes as a volleyball player. What can you do now for sport in your country as a congresswoman?
I entered politics in 2011, was elected as a congresswoman that same year and was re-elected in 2016. During my first period as a parliamentarian, I dedicated myself to supervising the existing infrastructure. I visited the various sports federations to find out their needs and I interviewed athletes to learn what problems they were facing for their preparation. I was the voice of those who were not heard, fulfilling the function of representation. Subsequently, I presented several legislative initiatives in favor of sport, among which I would highlight the Sports Patronage Law, which was approved at the insistence of the Congress of the Republic, and which, despite all the promises of the government, is still waiting to become law This law could generate a before and after in national sport. During these years, I will work to revitalize the national sports system and promote other parliamentary initiatives in favor of Peruvian sport. As coordinator of the Peruvian Congress Sport Group, I lead the control and monitoring of the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games.
Do you think that the members of the Organizing Committee of the Pan American Games should have training in sport management?
The Pan American Sports Organization (ODEPA) pointed out in one of its visits to our country that it was necessary to hire qualified personnel to run the Pan American Games, and the reality is that we do not have professionals with training in sport management. The analysis of the SISDEN (National Sports System) shows that most of the problems in national sport are down to the lack of professionals in sport management. The answer is clear.
“For me, Johan Cruyff’s education offer through the Institute represents an opportunity to capitalize on the experience of athletes to benefit the development of the sports industry”
How do you think organizing the Pan American Games will affect the labor market for sport managers before, during and after the event?
It is necessary to formalize the structure of national sport. As I mentioned, the Pan American Games are a great opportunity for the country to improve the national sports system. The participation of managers in the planning and execution of the Pan American Games is vital. But, above all, their importance lies in the work they must do after the Games, so as not to repeat experiences such as those that we have seen happening in Brazil, with Olympic Games venues becoming abandoned less than a year after the event. Or what has happened in our country, which in recent years has hosted various competitions, such as the South American Games and Boliviarian Games. Did sport change in each of the cities that hosted these competitions? Of course not, and this was because of the lack of sport management professionals that could generate the processes for their organization, execution and dissolution, and above all, who would be able to build the sports system, using these tournaments as a great catalyst for local development in each of the host cities.