In the pre-Hispanic period, regional sports games flourished throughout most of America, acquiring great socio-religious importance. Indeed, peoples who had reached high levels of development took part in sports which are now recognizable in modern disciplines such as tennis and basketball.
However, during the 300 years of European dominance no signs of these events were to be seen and it was not until the second and third decades of the past century that the origin of the first modern regional games came to be established, precisely when Count Henri de Baillet Latour served as President of the International Olympic Committee (1925-1942).
Baillet Latour knew that the development and splendor of the Olympic Games, restored in 1896 thanks to the effort and tenacity of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, could only be realized by staging regional games.
Thus, in 1923, even before he was named President of the IOC, he traveled throughout the world, especially America, where he visited each of the countries, seeking to encourage everyone that regional games could be successfully staged. The previous year, 1922, there had already been a rehearsal for the future regional games when, in Brazil, as part of the celebrations for the Centenary of its Independence, the first South American Games were held.
Four years later, in 1926, Mexico City was the venue for the first Central American Games, which are the world’s oldest regional games.
The unity of American sports would become deeply rooted at the Los Angeles Olympiad, staged in 1932, at which representatives of the American nations held informal meetings and at which Mexico proposed the setting up of the American Sports Confederation, which was to become the supreme aspiration of friendship and common destiny.
At the Berlin Games in 1936, this ideal was again confirmed and during the meetings of the American countries delegates, a regular schedule was approved for the Pan American Games.
Thereafter, Avery Brundage, then President of the United States Olympic Association, with great enthusiasm formalized the project of integration of the Pan American Federations for each sport. Brundage worked unceasingly to this end, and together with George Marshall, invited the athletes of the whole continent to participate at the competitions to be held in Dallas, Texas, in 1937. It was to be the first attempt to bring together America’s athletes at a feast of friendship and competition. On that occasion, the flagpoles were topped with the flags of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, United States, Paraguay and Peru.
The efforts of the Belgian Henri de Baillet Latour, of Avery Brundage and other leading figures of American sports were rewarded with great enthusiasm and success at the Pan American Sports Congress, held at Buenos Aires in 1940. On that occasion, the delegates of 16 countries participated with full voting rights, and approved, among others, the motion to establish the Pan-American Sports Committee, whose main aim was to organize, every four years from 1942 on, the Pan American Sports Games. They further agreed that Buenos Aires would host the First Games.
Unfortunately, America became involved in the war which had broken out in 1939 and the staging of the games had to be interrupted. They were postponed on several occasions, but each year Argentina renewed its claim to host the 1st Pan American Games.
With the signing of peace in 1945, the project emerged again stronger than ever, and on the occasion of the Olympic Games in London, the American delegates met on August 8, 1948 to hold the 2nd Pan American Sports Congress which approved, once again, the staging of the Continental Games, setting the date of 1951 as the most appropriate for the birth of America’s most important sports event, as well as of the world´s.
Avery Brundage decided to visit the American countries and on arrival at Buenos Aires, the agreement confirming the Argentine capital city as host of the Ist Pan American Games was ratified.
Dr Rodolfo G. Valenzuela was immediately appointed to the Presidency of the Organizing Committee, which enjoyed the full support of the government of the President of Argentina at the time, General Juan Domingo Perón.</>
The Ist Pan-American Sports Games were held with great solemnity and enthusiasm in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina from February 25 to March 9, 1951.