Sport in Latin America

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Ask any Latin American what defines their continent and their own national identities, and they are likely to reply that it is a burning passion for sport. These days the continent's many historic rivalries are expressed through a healthy sporting spirit, producing world famous spectacles that rank among the top of any Latin America vacation experience. Even non–avid sports fans can't help but get swept away in the atmosphere and energy of a major Latin American sporting event.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is just one of many major Latin American sporting events held annually and the region has been boosted by the award to Brazil of both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Other major events include or have included:The Copa de LibertadoresFootball and Latin America are virtually synonymous. The beautiful game is revered everywhere from the buzzing streets of the continent's cities to the most remote outposts in the distant wilderness. And of all the football tournaments in Latin America, it is the Copa de Libertadores that draws the most attention and passion. The competition sees old tensions such as those between Brazil and Argentina or Peru and Chile turned into a healthy sporting rivalry, whilst the stadia of the continent's biggest teams are packed with flag waving fans, endless Mexican waves, flaming red flares, songs and chants. The tournament's 38 teams are drawn from the top–ranking teams from national competitions, which play a number of preliminary rounds before entering a group stage and then the finals. By the time the final stages begin, virtually everyone in Latin America has focused their attention on the competition. The Argentine Polo Open ChampionshipPolo is an old passion for Anglophile Argentines, and the sport attracts some of the best players and finest horses in the world. Held every December, the Argentine Polo Open Championship in Buenos Aires is one of the world's most important club level polo events. Despite the sport's elegant charm, the game is actually a highly demanding one, requiring great skills in horsemanship as well as effective teamwork in order to drive the small wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using an unwieldy, long–armed mallet. Argentina is the only Latin American country in which polo is played professionally and having won three world championships, the country is a world leader in this refined sport. There are three big opportunities to catch a professional polo match in Argentina, at the Open Championships of the Hurlingham and Tortugas Clubs, or the national Argentine Open Championship. The 2009 ISA World Surfing GamesThe 2009 ISA World Surfing Games took place on Costa Rica's Jaco beach. Known as "'the biggest surf show on the planet', the event was right at home in the lively, atmospheric and beautiful beachside town of Jaco. The Olympics of surfing sees over 200 surfers from nearly 30 countries congregate every year to do battle on their boards, with the competition alternating between the world's best surf spots. Surfing is a popular activity during many Costa Rica travel experiences and the country has become famous for its great surf and beaches that are world renowned for their quality and cleanliness. The South America Volleyball ChampionshipVolleyball is one of the few sports in Latin America that is widely popular among female competitors and spectators. The pinnacle of the game's annual calendar is the South American Volleyball Championship, held biannually since 1951 at alternate locations usually in Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. The sport is taken very seriously and demands extreme levels of fitness, agility, co–ordination and teamwork. Brazil, where the sport has become a passion second only to football, has been the traditional leading country, with occasional challenges from Argentina, Peru and Venezuela. Tour De Las AmericasIronically, it is the ancient sport of golf that is the youngest addition to Latin America's professional sports scene, having only been established as a permanent international tour in 1999. The Tour de las Americas (TLA) provides an opportunity for the best national players from Latin America and the Caribbean to compete at an international level and has rapidly developed into a major sporting occasion, involving over 30 events in almost 20 countries and a total prize money of over $3m. The rise of golf on the continent has also contributed to a growth in dedicated golf courses, especially in some of the more luxurious Costa Rica hotels. These days the Tour includes such prestigious events as the Argentine, Brazilian, Venezuelan and Peruvian Opens, plus the TLA Nations Cup. The annual calendar includes events throughout the first half of the year. The Pan American GamesThe Pan American Games are a multi–sport event, held every four years in the year before the summer Olympic Games and between competitors from all nations in the Americas. The last edition was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2007. The next will be in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011, followed by the 2015 games in Toronto, Canada. The idea of holding a Pan American Games grew from the Central American Games which were first organised in the 1920s. In 1932, a first proposal was made for Pan American Games, and the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) was established. The first Games were scheduled to be staged in Buenos Aires in 1943, but World War II caused them to be postponed until 1951. Since then, the Games have been held every four years, with participation at the most recent event at over 5, 000 athletes from 42 countries. Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2007 Games over San Antonio, Texas, in the US, on 24 August 2002, having won an absolute majority of votes (30–21) from the 51 members of PASO in the first round of voting during the XL PASO General Assembly held in Mexico City, Mexico. This was the first Games to be held in Brazil since the 1963 Pan American Games that took place in São Paulo. According to the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee, the Games called for the implementation of the country's largest organisational and logistical operation ever. Rio de Janeiro created a new perspective and set new milestones for the Pan American Games. Considered to be an Olympic–level organised competition, these Games were the most expensive in the history of the event, with a budget of $2bn dollars. Media outlets reported unprecedented audience interest in the Games, with the highest public attendance and largest television audience in the Pan American Games history. For the very first time a Pan American Torch Relay was carried out, the Games were broadcast in high definition and all sports venues were located within the host city limits. The 2007 Pan American Games ran smoothly and served to strengthen Brazil's ability to hold major sporting events, becoming important during the country's successful campaigns to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in the following years. According to PASO, the excellent work developed by the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee, the full support provided by the three levels of government – Federal, State and Municipal – in Brazil and the people's massive and enthusiastic support resulted in the best Pan American Games ever.

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