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The power of sports

Article - February 11, 2014
The Administrative Department of Sport Recreation, Physical Activity and the Use of Free Time (Coldeportes), is the organism in charge of propelling Colombian sports and organizing successful events like the Cali World Games. Andrés Botero, Director of Coldeportes, explains how they do it
According to Havas Sports & Entertainment, a company dedicated to sports marketing and sponsorships, Colombia is the thirty seventh sports power in the world and the fourth in Latin America.

These results were issued in 2012, after the firm analyzed 1.642 international competitions and 5.103 medals. It concluded that Colombia is one of the five Latin American countries –together with Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Jamaica– with the best sports performance, having earned 24 medals (nine of which were gold).   
In the years that followed, Colombia has improved its performance in sports significantly, so much so that for Mr. Andrés Botero Phillipsbourne, Director of Coldeportes, the country has already earned the second place in the region:

“If you look at the results of the last Olympic Games, it’s clear that Colombia was above all the other Latin American countries, except for Brazil. We even out-performed Mexico and Argentina”. Also, for the first time in 75 years Colombian athletes beat Venezuelan contestants in the Bolivarian Games and took home the first place of the competition. 
Another example of the country’s improvement in the area is the World Games held in Cali in 2013. In that occasion, Colombia competed with 110 other countries and held the eighth position, over even Brazil and other sports giants like the United Kingdom.

These achievements aren’t merely the result of good luck. As Mr. Botero explains, they are the result of almost 20 years of hard work towards turning Colombia into the successful sports power it is today. “This whole process began in 1996, when I was invited as President of the Nautical Ski Federation to the Atlanta Olympic Games. Colombia only took home an eighth place and I was very frustrated because I believed we deserved much more. I then began thinking up solutions for sports in my country. I later entered the Colombian Olympic Committee as a spokesperson and then I was promoted to vice-president”, recalls Mr. Botero.

Two years later he and his team came up with a 10-year strategic plan to propel the evolution and improvement of sports in Colombia. Caterine Ibargüen, long jump and triple jump athlete and Olympic silver medalist, is one example of the positive results that plan had. “We saw she had a better future in triple or long jump instead of high jump, because she was too heavy. Like her, there are several other athletes from that time that are making headlines today”, explains Mr. Botero proudly. 
The positive results of last year’s World Games weren’t specific to the athletes; they also brought a great amount of tourism to Cali, one of Colombia’s main cities, and many positive reviews about the quality of the organization and the warmth of the locals. “After the World Games I had to say goodbye to delegations that went off crying because they were going to miss the help, the friendship and the hospitality that the Colombian people gave them during their stay”, recalls Mr. Botero. The Games helped Cali remember what a great city it is.

After years of being tied to drugs and drug dealers, the city came out of that dormant state and started propelling its economy with clean money from standup businesses. The national government invested 75 billion pesos into sports infrastructure for the event, which means the city will be ready to host any other sporting event in the future with as much success as it did last year.  
Coldeportes and the Department of Education are the main organisms propelling an idea that came directly from the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, and his former Secretary of the Treasury, Juan Carlos Echeverry.

It is called the Iniciativa Supérate (Outdo Yourself Initiative) that wants to use sports as a means for education, equality and inclusion. “It took us over 6 months just to show the country what the President wanted, but we finally did it. The first year one million 200 thousand children benefited from the initiative, the second year (2013) we reached 1.780.000 children and we believe this year we can reach two million”, explains Mr. Botero, and he adds that together with the Secretary of Education they are also reaching and helping many Colombian children.  
Another of Coldeporte’s most important initiatives is the fight against doping. “In Colombia we have zero tolerance for doping. In fact, we have one of the first Antidoping National Councils and it works supremely well. We also have the only certified lab in South America, which I helped found in 1996”, explains Mr. Botero.

The founding of that lab was, in fact, part of the process of turning Colombia into a better sporting country, that is why in the last year alone they have invested over 3 million dollars into making it the most modern in all of Latin America. In fact, because Brazil doesn’t have a lab, Colombia is taking care of all the samples from Brazilian professional football.