By Jordan Klein | July 25, 2019, 10:18 a.m. (ET)

Sarah Hirshland greets athletes at the flag raising ceremony at the athlete village on July 24, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

As soupy skies settled above the Villa El Salvador athlete village, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland addressed Team USA with a bright, eager smile.

“As you know, you’re the reason we’re all here,” Hirshland said. “We’re here to serve you and ensure your experience in Lima is a great one and that you have every opportunity to achieve your goals and your dreams.”

For several Team USA athletes, the Pan American Games Lima 2019 had already begun. Both the U.S. women’s and men’s beach volleyball teams defeated their opponents in pool play earlier in the day. The U.S. women topped Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, and the men went 2-0 over El Salvador. 

But for many, the flag raising ceremony, a Games tradition, marked the start of what will be an unforgettable experience. 

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Athletes gather at the flag raising ceremony at the athlete village on July 24, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

“Things are absolutely starting to become real,” U.S. rugby player Ariana Ramsey said, while taking a breath between introductions and swapping pins with fellow Pan American athletes.

“All of Team USA is staying in the same building, too,” added fellow rugby player Abby Gustaitis. “So, it’s really exciting to meet other athletes from around the country.” 

There are 1,096 recently completed apartments in the athlete village that are ready to accommodate more than 6,800 Pan American athletes. Flags from around the world dangle from its windows.

Following the ceremony, the U.S. athletes bolted to the plaza stage, standing arm in arm for pictures and basking in the anticipation of the Games to come.

“They’re here to see an incredible show,” Hirshland said, looking out among the Pan American Games staff, volunteers, media members and Peruvian officials. She returned her gaze to Team USA’s athletes with a glint in her eye.

“Let’s put on a show for them.”

 

(Second from left) Sarah Hirshland poses for a photo prior to the flag raising ceremony at the athlete village on July 24, 2019 in Lima, Peru.