The Pan American Games welcome athletes from all over the American continent to participate in an international celebration of friendship and sports. The Games are held every four years, in the year before the Olympic Games.
The first Pan American Games took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951 but their origin dates back more than 20 years before. During an Olympic Congress that coincided with the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, France, the members of the International Olympic Committee from Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico proposed the creation of a regional sports event in which Central American countries would participate. The games became a reality two years later when Mexico City hosted the first Central American Games.
During the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, some of the representatives of the Latin American delegations proposed the celebration of regional games for all the Americas. That proposal led to the first meeting, in Buenos Aires, of the Pan American Sports Congress in August, 1940.
The Congress chose Buenos Aires as the host city for the first Pan American Games in 1942 but the continuance of World War II caused the games to be postponed. A commemorative poster was created for the event that never was.
Countries belonging to the British Commonwealth didn´t participate in the Pan American Sports Congress during the first few years.
A second Pan American Sports Congress was held in London during the 1948 Olympic Games and new plans for the games resurfaced. As a result of the meeting, the first Pan American Games were celebrated in Buenos Aires on February 25, 1951. More than 2,500 athletes from 22 countries competed.
The organization that oversees the games is the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO). Currently, PASO is made up of 42 nations from South, Central, and North America as well as the Caribbean. The official languages of the Games are English and Spanish.
(Source: www.guadalajara2011.org.mx )