Junior Pan American Games kick off to Latin rhythm

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CALI, Colombia, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- The inaugural Junior Pan American Games in the Colombian city of Cali began on Thursday with an opening ceremony that showcased the South American country's rich cultural diversity, especially in the realm of music and dance.

Two-hour spectacle at the Pascual Guerrero stadium featured a rendition of Colombia's national anthem by Cali-born pop star Fanny Lu as well as rousing performances from salsa artists Anddy Caicedo and Willy Garcia.

It also included dozens of local dancers and actors, who took part in a series of scenes that depicted the event's major themes: Afro-Colombian heritage, indigenous essence, urban culture, the power of mixed race and salsa.

"The objective is to show what we are as a culture, so that the wide Pan American public learns everything that characterizes us and identifies us before the whole world through those elements," said the ceremony's producer, David Lerma.

"There has been a strong component of salsa and urban [dance]. The presence of the local artists is key and that's why we gave it a predominant place in the programing."

The song of the games "For Us" was performed by local artist Hendrix Hinestroza and was followed by an extended demonstration of salsa choke, a variation of traditional salsa from Colombia's Pacific coastal region.

The event's 3,500 athletes from 41 countries were then sworn in before the torch was carried into the stadium by 92-year-old former Colombian hurdler Jaime Aparicio.

The torch was then passed to a number of other retired athletes, including former Olympic shooter Bernardo Tovar, before young Cali-born pair Juan Manuel Morales (swimming) and Valeria Cabezas (athletics) oversaw the lighting of the flame.

"The Games are the event that will represent the rebirth of the youth," event director Jose Luis Echeverry said, before referring to the 1971 Pan American Games, which were also held in Cali.

"This inauguration is the symbol of the passing of the baton from the generation of '71 to the young people so that they are the ones who write the history. A history that takes us, 50 years later, to be exactly in the same place where Cali became great," he added.

The Junior Pan American Games will run from November 25 to December 5, comprising athletes aged from 17 to 22.

According to Cali 2021 president Baltazar Medina, the Games represent triumph over adversity following the difficulties posed by COVID-19.

"These Games are a way of sending a message of hope to the whole world through sport, because of everything we are able to achieve in order to recover and get out of this crisis," Medina said.

Neven Ilici, the president of the Pan American Sports Organization, or Panam Sports, said, "The pandemic affected everything. We entered a state of confinement in March last year and we understood that it was a compelling reason to take time to decide if we were all in a position to move forward.

"We are very happy and excited that this youth festival is about to begin. We have all made a tremendous effort for our athletes. This generation represents the future of our continent and that is why we are giving our all for them," he added. Enditem

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