‘Festival of Colombian sports couldn’t have got off to a better start’ as Juegos Nacionales open in Ibague
A blend of guitars, flutes and drums of traditional folk music and the Pacific rhythm of ChocQuibTown raised the roof at the renovated Manuel Murillo Toro stadium in Ibagué as Colombia’s national games opened on Saturday November 7, with not even the cold November rain enough to dampen the atmosphere.
Coldeportes chief Andrés Botero Phillipsbourne officially kicked off ‘Los Juegos Deportivos Nacionales de Colombia’, as they are officially known, saying that the “festival of Colombian sports couldn’t have got off to a better start” in a speech.
“This packed crowd in a stadium of the highest quality is something that these games deserve,” said Botero. “And this obliges us to put our best efforts into the competition to ensure it brings us more excitement and joy.”
Athletes from 32 states, a Bogotá team and a representative team of the armed forces will compete for the gold medal in the 46 different events that make up the games, which are usually held every four years but are this year taking place just three years after the last event.
World class performances
World class athletes – including Caterine Ibargüen, Jossimar Calvo, Jackeline Rentería, Yuri Alvear and Mariana Pajon – will be keen to reaffirm their status as number one in their field. But as well as the competitive element, Coldeportes organises the games with a broader goal in mind.
The Juegos aim to develop the infrastructure of the host cities and states, in a sporting sense by creating new venues but also helping to develop transport and tourism.
To some extent this explains the choice of venues, with the 2012 games being hosted by Montería, Cauca and Cúcuta, and the 2008 event in San Andrés. But this also means things do not always run exactly according to plan, with several sports often having to take place outside the host regions.
Botero, with the support of President Juan Manuel Santos, announced in 2012 that the twentieth edition of the games was going to be held for the first time in history in Chocó and Tolima, and many predicted it was a risky choice.
Preparations have been riddled with obstacles, and due to delays in construction, several events were forced away from their originally planned venues in Tolima and Chocó to Cali, Girardot, and, in the case of equestrian and shooting, as far afield as Bogotá.
The national games will continue until November 22, with the para-national games set to run from November 28 until December 6.
Ten pin bowling (or American bowling as they like to call it here) is perhaps one of the most unlikely sports to be included in Colombia’s national games. Favourite Clara Juliana Guerrero, of Quindío, took the gold medal in the ladies individual tournament on the first day of the games, beating Tolima’s María José Rodríguez. Sadly, the rather more traditional (and boozy) bolo criollo, played in Santander and Norte de Santander, has no place in the tournament – but you should have a go for yourself next time you’re in Bucaramanga.