University of North Texas Libraries / Star of the Republic Museum


History of the Pan American Games

SANTIAGO, Chile – The idea of holding a Pan American Games (PAG) was first raised at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games, where Latin American representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that a competition among all countries in the Americas be created. The first effort at holding a PAG took place in Dallas, Texas in 1937 as part of a Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition, but it attracted so little attention it never counted in the records of competition.

Three years after the attempt in Texas, the first Pan American Sports Congress was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Though the participants originally arranged to hold the first Games in Buenos Aires in 1942, the plans were postponed because of World War II. At a second Pan American Congress in 1948, Buenos Aires was reconfirmed as the host city for the inaugural games, set to commence in 1951. Those first Games began on February 25, offered 18 sports, and hosted 2,513 athletes from 14 nations. The most recent edition in 2019 involved 6,690 competitors from 51 countries.

Held every four years in the year before the Summer Olympic Games, field hockey has been part of the PAG since 1967 for the men and 1987 for the women. The PAG has acted as a qualifier for the Summer Olympic Games since it was first included for the men and starting in 1999 for the women.

In the men’s competition, Argentina leads the results table having won ten of the 15 events and are currently seeking their fourth consecutive gold medal. Canada has won gold four times and silver on eight occasions. The highest finish the USA has achieved is bronze, which they have won five times – making them the country with the third most medals. USA most recently won bronze in 2019, snapping a 24-year medal drought.

For the women, Argentina also holds the top spot, having won seven gold medals of the ten events. USA has won gold twice (2011, 2015) and the silver medal five times. At their most recent appearance in 2019, USA won their second bronze medal. Canada is the bronze medal leader, having claimed it four times, and is the only other country besides USA and Argentina to have won silver (1991, 2019).

For more information on the 2023 Pan American Games, visit the event page.