Interview: Andrés Botero
What level of investment is needed to successfully stage all upcoming international sports events?
ANDRES BOTERO: Colombia has recently received offers to host more than 90 international sporting events, while just 15 years ago the country had great difficulties in being granted even one. This illustrates how our international image has taken a substantial turn for the better over the past decade.
Even though we do not currently have the budget to host all of these events, we are trying to accommodate as many as possible and to spread these across the country in order to ensure that sport is not exclusively focused in the major cities.
Colombia will host the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup, with more than $100m required to build stadiums and facilities in Cali, Bucaramanga, Cúcuta, Villavicencio, Neiva and Ibagué, among other cities.
Investment in the range of $200m will be needed to organise and build infrastructure for the Bolivarian Games in 2017 in Santa Marta. The goal is to contract the construction of around 200 sport facilities before the end of 2014. Projects such as the multi-use stadium in Chocó or the velodrome in Ibagué are part of an ambitious plan to promote sports.
Following the recent international success of Colombian cyclists, what is needed to take the sport to a higher level?
BOTERO: With the inclusion of Team Colombia in the Union Cycliste Internationale World Tour, we seek not only to support and promote cycling in Colombia, but also to use it as a marketing tool for our international image. The response so far has been phenomenal, and we hope to be strong contenders at the big global events over the next few years. On the domestic front we are aiming to host events, both professional and amateur, that will help to improve cycling facilities as well as further popularise the sport. This can help bring investment to Colombia in the form of new events and races, and their respective sponsorships.
Are there plans to develop sports facilities in schools and universities?
BOTERO: In order to reach as many children as possible, we work on including sport in their daily life from an early age. We created the “Excel Yourself” programme, known in Spanish as expected to reach more than 2m children nationwide. This initiative will promote social skills and schooling for children, and require that they attend school regularly in order to continue onto the second year of the programme. Further, Excel Yourself will also help to integrate children coming from former conflict areas. With regard to tertiary education, meanwhile, Colombia still has a long way to go. We are still trying to catch up with the US and Europe, and are even behind some of our neighbours. Colombia will host the National University Sport Games in Cali in October 2014, which will eventually help to change the attitude of our universities toward sports programmes. At the same time, we are also working with the Ministry of National Education to boost sports resources, including more scholarships and grants.
How does Colombia compare globally in the use of sophisticated technology for sports training?
BOTERO: We have invested more than $2m to improve our neuroscience and biomechanics laboratories, which are now among the most advanced in the world. We had experts flown in from the US to help train our scientists in the use of new equipment. We also have the only World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in South America and are constantly receiving requests to conduct anti-doping tests for sports events in the region. Colombia is updating its high performance centre in Bogotá in line with the International Olympic Committee as part of making it a centre for northern Latin America and the Caribbean region.
All in all, these facilities have positioned Colombia as a growing regional pioneer in technology applied to sports, though a lot more still needs to be done.
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