Panama on Friday bowed out of co-hosting the U-20 Women’s World Cup with Costa Rica, making the decision in context of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also declining to host the 2022 Central American and Caribbean Games.
“The National Government confirmed the formal decline of Panama as the venue for the XXIV Central American and Caribbean Sports Games 2022 and the U-20 Women’s World Cup,” Panamanian authorities said in a statement.
“It was very difficult for us, but impossible to have all the necessary infrastructure,” said the president of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo.
According to the president, the Panamanian government will use public investments instead on issues related to health and the fight against the pandemic.
Panama had been chosen, together with Costa Rica, to be the host of the Women’s World Cup, which has been rescheduled to January 20-February 6, 2021.
Costa Rica confirmed Friday its willingness to singularly host the U-20 women’s soccer tournament, which was originally to be played in both Central American countries between August and September of this year.
Costa Rica “is ready to host the entire tournament,” the Costa Rican Organizing Committee said in a statement.
“Costa Rica has the organization, human resources, sports infrastructure, logistics, technology and accommodation to serve with excellence all the delegations and other activities that the World Cup demands,” the Costa Rican Soccer Federation said.
“Fortunately, the organization of the tournament does not require public resources, since the resources come from FIFA and sponsors.”
A ‘unilateral’ measure
Panama had also been chosen by the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (Odecabe) as the venue for the XXIV Central American and Caribbean Games.
The canal country had planned to host this regional joust between June 9-24, 2022. It was the third time that it would receive this competition, after the 1938 and 1970 editions.
But Panama’s willingness to host waned in light of the country’s health situation. Authorities there have announced 1,250 deaths and more than 57,000 infected by COVID-19, in a population of four million.
“We have to make these decisions to save lives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and address its social and economic effects,” said the vice minister of the Presidency, Carlos García Molino.
Odecabe President Luis Mejía regretted the Panamanian decision to suspend the Central American and Caribbean Games.
“We were surprised by this,” Mejía said in statements broadcast on the Panama’s TVN. According to the executive, Panama had promised to continue with the organization of the Games, but now it is withdrawing “without having the slightest and most elementary courtesy to inform us,” he criticized.
The Panama Olympic Committee (COP) and the Panamanian Football Federation (Fepafut) were also surprised by the government measure, which they described as “unilateral” and “reckless.”
The cancellation of the Games will have “a negative impact” on the preparation of athletes and the modernization of sports infrastructures, the COP warned.
It is “a sad day for our athletes and our federations” because with “good planning” the regional competition “would help reactivate the economy and the sports sector,” said COP President Camilo Amado.
“We deeply regret this news” because there was “illusion” and because the World Cup “would not cost the country more than 6.5 million dollars,” Fepafut replied.
On the verge of collapse
Panama has the highest official number of coronavirus infections in Central America, with hospitals and morgues on the verge of collapse.
Economic expectations are not ideal either: Local authorities expect an economic contraction of more than 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year.
In addition, Panama has gone from about 200 infections a day to more than 1,200 in recent weeks. The scenario has forced authorities to retrofit hospitals and look for new facilities, such as convention centers, in a public health system that was already deficient.
“We know it is a complicated situation due to the COVID issue, but the athletes must be devastated. It is a hard blow. It is surrendering in the fourth month of quarantine,” Medcom group sports journalist Rony Vargas told AFP.