Central America Sports: A Cross-Cultural Unification.
Similar to the Olympics, the Central American Games (CAG) take place every four years. These games, held in Central American countries, typically happen the year after the Summer Olympics. Furthermore, the Central American Games is second only to the Olympics for the title of the longest-running regional sporting event. The first recorded Central American Games was in 1926. Moreover, the Games originated with the Mexican Olympic Society, which decided to organise a regional sporting event between Central American countries.
Why was the CAG formed?
This was due to Mexico's unfortunately poor performance during their stint at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Mexico, Guatamala, and Cuba were the three countries present at the first games, giving rise to the strong connection between the games and Latin America. Due to increasing interest in the games from regions outside of Central America, a change in name was in order. In 1932, the games became known as the Central American and Caribbean Games (CACG) to reflect the involvement of Caribbean athletes.
The Central American Sports Games.
These Central American Sports Games were brought back in 1973, existing alongside and separate from the more popular Central American and Caribbean Games. Only Central American Isthmus countries participate in the Central American Sports Games. This consists of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The involvement of Mexico in the Central American Games is no more. However, Mexico is still very present in the Central American and Caribbean Games, with the next edition taking place in 2023 in San Salvador in El Salvador, from 23 June to 8 July.
Heading the Charge in 2022.
Guatemala and Costa Rica have stepped forward to host the Central American Games in 2022. Similar to the Olympics, the host country organises the proceedings each year the games take place. These games are held in the latter months of the year, with the upcoming games to take place between 27 October and 13 November 2022. Even though these games are held late in the year, the games in November do not include Winter sports.
Organisation and Ceremonies.
Organizacion Deportiva Centroamericana (ORDECA), or Central American Sports Organization, is responsible for organising these games. To qualify, all athletes must be put forward by their National Olympic Committee. Similar to the modern Olympics, the opening ceremony of the Central American Games involves lighting a torch. They ignite this traditional flame in Q'umarkaj, one of Guatemala's ancient cultural Mayan centres, located in the department of Quiché. Similarly, the games also have a closing ceremony, akin to the modern Olympic Games.
Events in The Central American Games.
The Central American Games have a multitude of different sports for athletes to take part in. With over 40 possible types of games to take place, a detailed description of each would be quite a feat. However, a broad understanding would be better. Below is a description of the different categories of sports in the Games.
The Central American Games involve both in-water games and (for lack of a better description) on-water games. There is diving, open water swimming, synchronised swimming, and water polo. They also have rowing and sailing races. Touching on this, there is also a triathlon, which would involve swimming.
Similar to most multi-sports regional Games, cycling is an important aspect of the Central American Games. They have BMX racing, mountain biking, and road cycling. These events often involve the outlying area of a host city, offering viewers an insight into the surrounding area. These races, when televised, may serve as an excellent tourism boost. The triathlon event also falls into the category, as it involves cycling.
Many team sports are popular all year round, with football and rugby being particular favourites. It should be no surprise then, that team sports feature in the Central American Games. Football (soccer) and futsal make an appearance at the games, as well as beach & court volleyball, field hockey, baseball, basketball, and softball. While many of these sports could be considered as stereotypically representing the USA or Canada, these Games prove that sports can be cross-cultural.
Like nearly all multi-sports regional games, the Central American Games puts on a representation of the traditional Olympic sports. These sports include archery, athletics, gymnastics, boxing, and wrestling.
All kinds of Martial arts have been entertaining to watch for a long time. With the increasing popularity of mixed martial arts, the fights in the Central America Sports Games will be sure to draw quite a crowd. These martial arts include fencing, judo, karate, and taekwondo.
Due to the large variety of sports taking place, there are those not so easily categorised. Some of these games do not even take place in the Olympic games. An example of some of these games include roller speed skating, bodybuilding, bowling, chess, equestrian sports, shooting, golf, and table tennis. There are more sports and games not mentioned here for the sake of brevity. Nevertheless, the variety of games is awe-inspiring.
Criticism is continually levelled at the Central American Games for their exclusion of the most ancient ball game on the continent. Played by the pre-Columbian people of Ancient Mesoamerica, the Mesoamerican Ballgame is an important cultural marker for the people of Central America. While it is unknown for certain when this game originated, the estimated origin pushes well beyond 2000 CE. The game was played by moving the ball with your hips and forearms. Some versions suggest the use of rackets, bats, or handstones. Indigenous populations still play Ulama, a descendant of the Mesoamerican Ballgame. By excluding the descendant game Ulama also, the Central American Games have missed an excellent opportunity for promotion and appreciation of their deeply rooted cultural heritage.
With the Central American Sports Games coming up in November, all eyes will be on Guatemala and Costa Rica. These two countries will be sharing the duties of hosting the games across four cities: Guatemala City, Flores, San Jose, and Alajuela Esparza. This exciting cultural and sporting event is sure to be all over American sports news in the coming months. So mark your calendars.