Friday, November 4, 2011

Guadalajara Glory Days #7

I'm covering the Pan American Games from Oct. 13 through 31 in Guadalajara, Mexico for the Virgin Islands Daily News. These notebook items and photos were published in the print edition.

Innocent bystander

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Considering I don't speak Spanish, this Guadalajara Gringo has relied on physical and visual landmarks to get around town.

Inside the main foyer of the Guadalajara Expo Complex, where the main press center is also located, a massive model of the city reveals where all the Pan American Games sports venues are and all the roads associated with them.

Earlier in the week, I got yelled at because I walked up one of the viewing stations when it was very late at night. I was done writing for the evening and was trying to figure out where the next day's adventure would begin. A nearby security guard yelled at me from the upper floor, kept a keen eye on me while he calmly rode the escalator down to my level and was not happy when he finally came within reach of me.

In my best Spanglish, I quickly told him I didn't know I was in the wrong and sarcastically begged for his forgiveness.

Through an interpreter, I later learned that another media member had accidentally dropped his soda from the very same viewing station the night before and the security guard thought the same culprit was back again. It was the first time not knowing Spanish actually helped me.

“The guy from last night was Colombian,” the interpreter said to me. “Sorry about that.”

Planning ahead

U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Committee president Hans Lawaetz is also the treasurer for the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (CACSO) and that group held meetings this past week in Guadalajara.

The main discussion was about the when to hold the 2014 CAC Games in Veracruz, Mexico.

“The mayor of Veracruz said he wants it to be held in October, which as we've learned, is not good timing for the other countries' athletes,” Lawaetz said. “That's when kids are still in college and it's going to limit participation.”

At these Pan American Games, four USVI track and field standouts stayed in school instead of taking two weeks away from the classroom. Lawaetz and a majority of the other Olympic Committee presidents are opposed to any start dates after the middle of August.

“The weather is better in October – that's their only excuse really,” Lawaetz said. “A lot of people don't know this but things like the CAC Games are a money-losing proposition. We'll see what happens.”

Team USA doubling up

Midway through Tuesday's track and field events, the Americans have really started to run away with the medals count at the 2011 Pan American Games. Just before the evening sports started, Team USA had secured 173 medals, including 64 of the golden kind. The next closest is Brazil with 79 medals (29 gold) and Canada with 73 medals (20 gold).

The Games are starting to wind down but there will be plenty more opportunities for Americans to climb up to the medals podium. More than 40 medals will be up for grabs on both Thursday and Friday.

Since the Pan American Games started in 1951, the U.S. has won an all-time high 3,936 medals. Aruba, the British Virgin Islands and Saint Kitts and Nevis have yet to win a medal.

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