Workers and volunteers at the Pan American Games were still removing bricks, pieces of wood and construction machinery from outside competition venues on Tuesday, the fourth day of the largest multi-sport event in the region. Construction material is scattered around many of the entrances to the National Stadium compound, where six venues are set to stage 30 events at the Pan American Games in Santiago.
Chile is hosting the Olympic-style event for the first time and public officials have invested $507 million in the area. Near the stadium’s main entrance, dozens of empty boxes, crates and pieces of wood were untouched between Friday, the day of the opening ceremony, and Saturday. Some of those leftovers are linked to the last-minute installation of rootless trees, two volunteers told The Associated Press.
The volunteers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists. One of the workers continued cleaning and picking up trash while two local policemen dressed in green, known as carabineros, watched from one of the entrances to the compound.
A lack of volunteers and signage around Pan American Games venues has left many fans struggling to find their way to and around the National Stadium area. Mexican fan Luis Miguel Cruz, a 56-year-old engineer, attended the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara and has been disappointed by the lack of organization this year in the Andean nation.
“I am a bit frustrated. It was hard to get here from downtown, I didn’t know where to get the right subway. I didn’t know which entry to use here and neither did the first volunteer I found,” Cruz told the AP as he ate a hot dog from a food truck at the National Stadium. “In Guadalajara, the food truck was exceptional, there were many places to sit, a lot of variety. Here it is small, few seats, too.”
Security has also been a concern as the Chilean capital faces a wave of criminality that has worried locals. Many drivers have entered the National Stadium compound in recent days without having their cars checked by event security. That happened on Friday and Saturday during the visit of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach. On Tuesday, more people waited for bag checks at different gates of the compound than in previous days, despite an apparently smaller amount of people attending events.
The athletes village has also faced problems, as it does at many Pan American Games. Some have complained about a lack of hot water in their showers and long lines to eat. Last week, more than 1,300 keys to bedrooms in the athletes village were not properly identified. They had to be tested one by one, which stalled the arrival of several competitors.
Local media reported last week that that leaks at the athletes village forced members of several members of the United States, Brazil and Argentina delegations to momentarily move into a hotel. Pan American Games organizers did not respond a request for comment from the AP.
Some of the problems found by athletes in recent days were expected long before the games. Colombian diver Mariana Osorio said the distance between the athletes village and the aquatics center was excessive. “It took us an hour to get there. Sometimes you arrive with back pains and you’re just going there to compete,” Osorio said. “It is not ideal.”
Organizers have managed to avert the most serious risk to the games so far, though. A broken water pump could have left Santiago’s pool half-empty, but it was fixed in time. Now the race is on to get everything ready for track and field, which starts on Sunday.
Shortly before opening the games, Chilean President Gabriel Boric told journalists “there might be some bumps (in the games), but we are doing all the work so this is impeccable.” “One can always find inconveniencies,” he added. “Our government is available so these are sorted. May all the difficulties be brief so sportspeople and fans can watch with comfort.”
After two days of competitions, Chilean Sports Minister Jaime Pizarro told journalists at the National Stadium compound he believes the games are going smoothly. He also didn’t rule out bidding for the Olympics in the future. “If there’s one thing that is important in life it is to always dream,” Pizarro said after being asked about an Olympic bid. “We have to live intensively what we are living now. That this can help us for the future, I have no doubt.”
Augustina Avalle, a 42-year-old Chilean fan, doesn’t think Santiago should even consider bidding for the Olympics based on its hosting of the Pan American Games, but she doesn’t think the problems seen this weekend will affect the games overall.
“It is clean and comfortable inside the venues, and that’s what I care about more,” said Avalle, who was wearing a Chile national team shirt as she watched women’s gymnastics. “I was at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I know that some of these issues here you can’t see at Olympics, but this is the Pan American Games.”
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