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Rio Welcomes the Americas
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The opening ceremony of the XV Pan American Games was conceived as a popular opera featuring the music of Brazil performed on a stage in the shape of the sun. Some 4,500 performers were part of the extravaganza.
The 15th edition of the Pan American Games was officially opened last weekend in the Estádio do Maracanã (Maracanã stadium) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A mythical venue at best, this football stadium is one of the largest in the world. It was inaugurated in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup, the final of which was attended by 175,000 spectators. Since then, it has mainly been used for football matches between the Rio's biggest football clubs. The greatest musicians – Kiss, Rush, Sting, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Metallica, and The Rolling Stones – have also performed there.

The idea of holding Pan American Games grew from the Central American Games first organised in the 1920s. National Olympic Committees from the Americas were contemplating the creation of sports games, similar to the Olympic Games for athletes from North, Central and South America only. In 1932, a first proposal was made and a Comité Deportivo Pan Americano was established. The first Games were scheduled to be staged in 1943, but World War II caused them to be postponed. At its second congress held in August 1943, the Committee decided to hold the first Pan American Games once World War II was over.

It was Argentina, then under the presidency of Juan Perón and his wife Evita, who took on the task of organising the first Pan American Games from 25 February to 9 March 1951 in its capital, Buenos Aires. Twenty-two countries took part in 18 sports, of which four – Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico – competed in the equestrian disciplines of Dressage, Eventing and Jumping. Not represented in the equestrian events were the United States, who had only one year earlier created their civilian organisation, the United States Equestrian Team and did not have the means to undertake the trip south to Argentina.

The Eventing competition took place in the Cavalry School of Campo de Mayo, with Argentina taking both gold medals. Three riders each from Chile and Argentina took part in the Grand Prix of Dressage, with Chile taking both gold medals. Capt. Alberto Larraguibel of Chile on Julepe won the individual gold medal in Jumping, ahead of Lt. Carlos Delia or Argentina who, as a dignified white haired General and Ambassador, competed in Europe until the 80s. Larraguibel, then riding Huaso, had, two years previously, set a new High Jump World Record of 2m47 – a height never surpassed since. Larraguibel was also a member of the Chilean team winning the gold medal ahead of Argentina and Mexico. The Jumping competition was held on the closing day in the Río de la Plata Stadium, in front of 60,000 spectators, a number hardly achieved by any equestrian competition. The course had 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts up to 1m60; the width of the water jump was 4m80. Larraguibel won with eight penalties in each round.

Pan Americans Games have been held on a four-yearly basis ever since 1951. Horsesport has always been on the programme.

More than 5,600 athletes from 42 nations are competing in Rio, which is the largest-ever field for Pan American Games and Brazil's biggest multi-sport event. Home team Brazil, with about 700 athletes is the biggest delegation, followed by the USA and Cuba.

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