Renza Cardenas was just 10 when Lima lost to Toronto four years ago to host the 2015 Pan Am Games. He was part of Lima’s bid video back then, talking on camera about what the Games would mean to his country.
Four years later, he was part of Lima’s slick presentation once again, taking the podium in a Peru national track suit, a gold medal around his neck — won two weeks ago at the Pan American taekwondo championships.
“Today I’m 14; in 2019, I’ll be 20,” he told delegates at the 51st Pan American Sport Organization general assembly. “At that time, I would be a Pan American champion. I firmly believe in my dream. So today millions of young Peruvians share the same dream and we want your support.
“Believe in us. We won’t let you down.”
The Peruvian capital won with 31 votes, easily beating out what was considered its stiffest competition in Santiago, Chile. Santiago and La Punta, Argentina, received nine votes each. Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, received eight.
“It was sadness (four years ago),” Cardenas said. “But Lima in those years learned a lot and was able to bid again, and it ended up being victorious.
“The Games mean a great deal for children and youth,” he added. “Sports give them something to believe in. They can work really hard and also stay away from drugs.”
Delegates from 41 national sport organizations voted Friday as part of the general assembly. Lima, which is expected to be home to 12 million people by 2019, will host the Games for the first time.
Lima’s bid presenters talked about running a compact Games, featuring two clusters of sport venues. At one point in the presentation Jose Quinones, president of the Peruvian National Olympic Committee, choked back tears.
“The Games will do great things for our country and in turn we will do great things for the Pan American family,” he told delegates.
PASO president Don Mario Vazquez Rana said he was pleased to see the improvement Lima had made in the four years between bid presentations.
“Four years ago, we saw when they cried after they lost,” Vazquez Rana said. “That stays in the feelings of the people a little bit. Today, they laughed and smiled.”
Lima supporters erupted in cheers when Vazquez Rana announced the winner. Some pumped fists and chanted “Li-ma! Li-ma!”
Lima Mayor Susana Villaran wrapped Cardenas in a long hug.
Peruvian Prime Minister Juan Jimenez addressed delegates, saying, “When I took office in 2012, I knew that the Pan American Games in Peru would be a priority for our government.”
Santiago previously won the right to host the Games in 1975 and ’87, but withdrew both years — the first because of economic problems, the second after an earthquake in 1985 left about a million people homeless.