Mario Vázquez Raña

Week 71 (7 - 13 February 2015)

The world's sport and political leaders have been paying tribute this week to Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) President Mario Vázquez Raña, who passed away on Sunday, aged 82, and left behind a legacy that will continue to shape sport in the Americas.

IOC President Thomas Bach led the tributes for Vázquez Raña: "He had outstanding merit within the Olympic Movement and we will always remember him as a great Olympic leader."

Mexican Vázquez Raña was a powerful actor in the Olympic Movement and through his leadership as PASO President, a position he held since 1975, he was instrumental in transforming his continent's sporting landscape.

Above all, he is credited with pushing the Americas towards the forefront of the global sporting agenda with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee describing his efforts in this regard as "immense, unquestioned and influential."

He also played a pivotal role in the growing success of the Pan-American Games, which have almost doubled in size since he was first appointed.

His successful leadership around these Games was underpinned by his public addresses which were often passionate and significant – such as in 2007.

At the closing ceremony of the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Vázquez Raña used his set piece speech to bang the drum for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to finally be held in South America, declaring: "We demonstrated to the whole world that we can organise big events, including the Olympic Games in 2016."

Two years later, IOC President Jacques Rogge opened the most famous envelope in the Olympic Movement to reveal that the Games would indeed be coming to Vázquez Raña's continent in the shape of Rio 2016.

There is little doubt that Vázquez Raña's vision and the way he communicated that vision significantly helped instil confidence amongst PASO's NOCs about a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.

In addition to his role as PASO President, Vázquez Raña was also the founding President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) where he served from 1979 to 2012.

As ANOC President he provided a powerful voice for NOCs at the very top of the Olympic Movement's power pyramid.

He was succeeded as President by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah who, in learning of Vázquez Raña's death, stated: "He was a sports leader of great conviction and was greatly instrumental in bringing ANOC to the position it is in today."

Vázquez Raña's contribution to the Olympic Movement will continue to be felt and appreciated for many years to come.

At the conclusion of the Rio 2007 Pan-American Games, Vázquez Raña also spoke of how the Games "have left behind a great sporting legacy for the future of the country". Next summer this legacy will be realised.

Photo: Sport News

Written by Ellen Farrell