The 21st edition of the Central American and Caribbean Games began Sunday in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, after tropical winds delayed the start of the competition originally scheduled for Saturday.
The two-week tournament, which concludes Aug. 1, features athletes from 31 countries competing in 39 events. The games take place every four years, with a range of sports such as volleyball, swimming, basketball, softball, badminton and fencing.
Aside from Caribbean and Central American countries, the tournament also includes Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela. Though the three countries are not considered part of Central America or the Caribbean, they traditionally have competed due to their proximity to the region. The Mexican team has won the competition eight times.
The only other country to win the competition is Cuba, which will not participate in the games this year. Though not confirmed, the Cuba team – winner of 12 of 20 previous competitions – is rumored to have pulled out because Puerto Rico is officially a territory of the United States. Cuban and U.S. relations have been frozen since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
The Costa Rican team consists of 160 athletes competing in 27 events, and might include another event should soccer be added to the games. Last week officials from the North and Central American soccer governing body, Concacaf, announced they would not recognize the soccer competition because the venues offered in Puerto Rico are considered inadequate. To try to salvage the soccer competition, the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (Odecabe) proposed Venezuela as an alternative host. Concacaf is expected to approve or reject the proposal in the coming days. The soccer competition would be played from July 22 to Aug. 1.
“It seems very improvised,” said Ronald González, interim coach of the Costa Rican men’s soccer team. “Nothing has been communicated to me as of this time, but if we are going to play, we have a team ready to go.”
More than 5,500 athletes will compete in the Central American and Caribbean Games. The competition is expected to bring over $450 million in investment to Puerto Rico.