By Jordan Klein | July 27, 2019, 1:50 a.m. (ET)

Cecilia Tait lights the torch to signify the start of the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 26, 2019 in Lima, Peru


 

Amid a flurry of fireworks and fanfare, the Pan American Games Lima 2019 officially began at Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru, ushering in a new era of sport for the Games’ host country.

 

The past and present of Peru were intertwined throughout the Opening Ceremony, woven together like a tapestry in a country where nature, culture and sport coalesce. Each performance throughout the ceremony celebrated a different facet of Peruvian culture, from its acclaimed cuisine to the cutting-edge creations of its fashion scene. The ceremony also featured performances from several Latin American icons, including guitarist Charlie Parra, chef Micha Tsumura and singers Juan Diego Flroez and Luis Fonsi, leaving a near-capacity crowd on the edge of its seats.

 

It was the first time the Pan American Games have visited Peru in the event’s long history. First held in 1951, the Pan American Games were hosted by Buenos Aires, Argentina, drawing 2,513 athletes from 21 countries.

 

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The event has since grown drastically, as Lima will welcome more than 6,600 athletes to its shores from all 41-member nations of the Pan American Sports Organization. With competitions held across 14 districts of Lima and Callao, this edition of the Games is the largest in Pan American history.

 

“This is the most important sporting event in our country’s history,” said Carlos Neuhaus, president of the Lima 2019 Organizing Committee. “We are so excited to welcome you all with open arms.”

 

And with open arms they did. As each member nation strode across the stadium floor in the parade of athletes, they were met with thunderous applause from the Peruvian crowd. Team USA was led by Kathleen Sharkey, a field hockey veteran and 2016 Olympian. She was awarded the honor of flag bearer following a vote by her fellow Team USA members.

 

“I am very honored to be selected as the flag bearer for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony,” Sharkey said. “There are so many amazing athletes here in Peru and to be able to represent Team USA as the flag bearer is an amazing feeling.”

 

As the athletes filed into their seats, the Pan American flame reached Lima’s Estadio Nacional, carried by several past and future Peruvian champions. The flame traveled all the way from Teotihuacan, Mexico, finally reaching its destination to signal the start of the Pan American Games Lima 2019.