The Pan American Games: a Brief History

May 17, 2019, 11:35 a.m. (ET)

LIMA, Peru – May 17, 2019 – Every four years, like clockwork, nations, cultures and athletes converge for more than two weeks to compete in different disciplines of sport. No, not the Olympic Games, but to thousands of athletes and their respective teams, the Pan American Games run parallel in importance, hope and glory.

2019 marks the 18th edition of the Pan American Games, this time featuring 39 sports and 62 disciplines, with 22 directly qualifying to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Each rendition brings new stories, dreams and desire to play your best with history being made at the end of each whistle, goal, point and score in between.

The Pan American Games themselves did not come to life right away, in fact the whole concept was not thought of until the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games. It was here that the U.S. Men’s National Team earned their first medal in field hockey while more presentation was desired from Latin American countries. Five years later, the first attempt was made at making this a reality in Dallas, Texas, where as part of the Greater Texas Pan-American Exposition, saw low attention, eventually never truly counting in record books as “competition.”

It would be another three years before the Pan American Games would take a firmer shape, when the first Pan American Sports Congress convened in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was here that the first edition of the Games would be held in the same city in two year’s time in 1942. Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict of World War II would put these plans on hold for a few more years. The Congress met for a second time in the shadows of the London 1948 Olympic Games, where the original proposed host city was once again granted the first Pan American Games in three years.

The 1951 Pan American Games consisted of 2,513 athletes from 22 different countries in 17 sports, with field hockey having to wait until the fifth edition in 1967 to be represented. Each edition has grown in size and importance in the decades following as more sports, nations and athletes aim to represent at their highest possible ability, hoping to walk in the path of the Olympic flame in the process.

Peru is the fourth country from the South American continent to have the honor of being host of the event. Expected to have the most athletes to date, history is already being made as the big day gets closer.

Field Hockey at the Pan American Games
Despite appearing in only 14 editions of the Pan American Games, field hockey has been nothing short of exciting since 1967. In that first year, the men’s tournament saw Argentina claim a 5-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in Winnipeg, Canada, while the USMNT earned bronze over the host nation in a thrilling 1-0 victory. Since then, Los Leones and the neighbors to the north have met 12 total times on the men’s side, with Argentina holding nine gold medals to date.

The Las Leonas of Argentina have been similarly dominating on the women’s side since field hockey was introduced for both genders in 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana, appearing in every gold medal game thus far. The U.S. Women’s National Team has been their opponent in each of those matches except for one in 1991, and since then, the two sides have dueled to the very end to see who will be standing atop the podium. Most recently it has been the USWNT that have been proud to hold the title of Pan American champions, winning the past two competitions.

Don’t miss a moment of Pan American Games action this summer! Keep up to date with all the storylines between the USMNT and USWNT as they prepare through July at and by using the hashtag #AllEyesOnLima on social media.