1959 10¢ Pan-American Games
US #C56 was issued for the 3rd Pan-American Games held in Chicago.

After nearly two decades of planning, the first Pan-American Games were held on February 25, 1951.

The first step toward the Pan-American Games came at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, France. During the Olympic Congress there, members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico suggested the creation of regional games to increase sport activities in Central America. Working together, they succeeded in holding the first Central American Games two years later.

At the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Latin American IOC members proposed an even larger competition, to include all countries in the Americas. The first attempt at these games was held in Dallas, Texas, in 1937 at the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition. The program included athletics, boxing and wrestling. Though the games attracted little attention, they were successful enough that Olympic officials from the Americas agreed to meet and discuss a larger competition.

1959 10¢ Pan-American Games Fleetwood First Day Cover
US #C56 – Fleetwood First Day Cover

In 1940 the representatives met in Buenos Aires at the first Pan American Sports Congress. They agreed that the first games would be held two years later in Buenos Aires. However, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 drew most of the participating nations into World War II, and the games were postponed. Once the war was over, the congress reconvened in London during the 1948 Summer Olympics. There, they once again agreed on Buenos Aires as the host city and set the games for 1951.

1987 22¢ Pan American Games Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover
US #2247 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover

The first Pan-American Games began on February 25, 1951. Over the following 13 days, 2,513 athletes from 21 nations competed in 18 sports (for a total of 140 events). Argentina won the most medals, the United States came in second, and Chile placed third.

1987 22¢ Pan American Games
US #2247 was issued for the 10th games in Indianapolis in 1987.

The games proved to be a success and have been held every four years (in the year before the Summer Olympics) since 1951. The United States hosted the games for the first time in 1959, when they were held in Chicago, Illinois.

2004 23¢ Distinguished Americans: Wilma Rudolph, booklet single
US #3436 – Rudolph  won silver in the individual 100-meter event and gold in the 4 × 100 m relay at the 1959 games.

In 1990, the nations competed in the first and only Winter Pan-American Games. Since 1999, the games have been immediately followed by the Parapan American Games, in which athletes with physical disabilities compete. The most recent games were held in Santiago, Chile in 2023. Over 6,000 athletes participated in 39 sports (for a total of 425 events).

Since 1951, the games have been held 28 times. Currently, the United States has the most total medals, with 4,999 – 2,188 of those are gold. The next Pan-American Games are scheduled for 2027.

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3 Comments

  1. Interestingly, you did not mention the fact that these games are also a
    great diplomatic move to share information and maintain relationships.
    I hope Cuba returns to these games soon. Health sports competition is what
    makes for lifelong friendships among people, and nations as well.

  2. I remember when one of the Pan-American Games was held in Havana,
    Cuba. My uncle came over to watch the Opening Ceremonies with my dad
    and I. On one of the scenes, the camera pans from one point to another. The pan showed the outside of a tunnel that I remember traveling through when I was either five or six years old. I was in the back seat of the car that my uncle was driving, and my dad was on the passenger side front seat. As we emerged on the opposite side, a person walking on the right pointed to my uncles car. He (uncle) had turned on the headlights when entering the tunnel. The person was simply motioning him to turn the lights off.

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