altOctober 30 - The 2011 Pan American Games drew to a conclusion exactly where it begun 17 days ago as the Omnilife Stadium staged a wonderful Closing Ceremony that embraced everything that is colourful, vibrant, passionate and exciting about the Mexican culture.

But perhaps the most telling moment of the event came when Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, the President of the Guadalajara 2011 Organising Committee and Governor of Jalisco, revealed the city will put forward a bid for the Olympics and Paralympics following the successful hosting of the Pan American Games.

"At this Pan American Games, we have built confidence, pride, recognition," said Marquez in a speech to the crowd.

"We trust in ourselves, in our ability and we work to do great things.

"Thanks for making these Pan American Games the great celebration of America."

A bid for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics is now on the cards, which would be the first time Mexico has hosted the Games since Mexico City in 1968.

"We have done things right here so now we go for the Olympics," said Marquez.

"Now we are on the Olympics and Viva Mexico!"

His speech was followed by Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) President Mario Vázquez Raña taking the microphone to declare the event officially closed; describing it as the best Pan American Games ever.

"We all know that the road to get here was long and very difficult to navigate but we got a firm foundation in the end," said Rana.

"A special thanks goes to Emilio Gonzalez Marquez.

"Thank you Governor and as President of the Organising Committee, congratulations on achieving the best Pan American Games in history.

"On behalf of the Pan American Sports Organisation, on October 30, 2011, I solemnly declare closed the sixteenth Pan American Games Guadalajara 2011.

"Thank you very much and see you in Toronto 2015."

The arena was unsurprisingly sold-out with 50,000 screaming Mexican fans crammed in to create a deafening atmosphere that proved the perfect complement to the event that unfolded in front of them.

The Ceremony began by showing highlights from the event before the athletes and officials entered as one to watch the speeches from the Marquez and Rana.

It was then that the Mexican theme of the Ceremony was halted temporarily as Toronto, who will host the next edition of the Pan American Games in 2015, took centre stage in what was a superb eight-minute segment from the Canadian city.

altIn an enthralling Handover Ceremony, that saw symbolically Guadalajara pass the PASO flag to the Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, a group of dancers entertained the crowd as images of Toronto's magnificent skyline, featuring the iconic CN Tower, were portrayed and Jazz singer Florence K sang the national anthem.

Shortly after, Jamaican group the Wailers took to the stage performing reggae music that delighted both the athletes and crowd in a string of performance that also saw Argentinian pop singer Diego Torres perform.

But the spectacular finale came as Puerto Rican pop singer Ricky Martin emerged and bought the crowd to their feet with his exuberant single "Livin' la Vida Loca," the song that saw him catapult to international stardom back in 1999.

As Martin's electrifying performance ended, a colourful array of fireworks bought the Ceremony to an end as Mexico celebrated successfully hosting their biggest sporting event since the 1986 World Cup.

In total, the 2011 Pan American Games saw over 6,000 athletes compete across 36 sports and it was America who dominated as they topped the medal table with a huge total of 236, 92 of which were gold.

Cuba were second with 136 medals and 58 golds while Brazil finished third with 141 medals and 48 golds.

Hosts Mexico finished just outside the top three positions as their 133 medals, 42 of which were gold, saw them take fourth place.


By Tom Degun