The Pan American Games in 2019 will be held in Lima, and the prospect of hosting the Games for the first time in Peru is a source of huge pride and excitement to all those involved.
One person who will be at the heart of the hockey element of the Games is Peru Hockey Federation President Gianni Delucchi and he took some time to tell us about an exciting new development, linked to the Games but set to provide a whole new level of hockey legacy.
“In line with the infrastructure demanded to host the 2019 Pan American Games, the government is funding two water-based pitches. These pitches will be identical structures, built side-by-side but only one will have a permanent stand. This will be the legacy that the games will leave for our sport,” he pauses for a second and then says, “for our passion.”
And that passion is helping speed hockey development in the south American country. The Hockey Federation, led or cajoled by Gianni, has been making waves in recent years as it has embarked on a hockey revolution of its own, aided by the FIH Targeted Assistance Programme.
The programme has been concentrating upon improving the performance of the elite squads. The new pitches will provide an additional boost to the sport. As Gianni says: “These pitches will mean everything for the development of hockey in Peru, they will be the first two pitches in the capital, Lima. It was always our dream to have a pitch here.”
Previously, international hockey had been played 700 kilometres from the capital in Chiclayo. In 2015, the Pan American Challenge was held there, and a year later it played host to both the Hockey World league Round One and the South American Championship 2016.
The two new pitches and the surrounding facilities will provide a whole new experience for players and fans alike. During competition, each stand will cater for 2,500 seated spectators and there will be specially designated areas for people with disabilities. There will also be five VIP rooms with large windows facing the pitch. There will be a VIP room set apart for families of the players and and special areas for TV transmission. In addition, there will be a host of amenities such as coffee shops, conference rooms, storage, meeting rooms, offices for umpires and staff and medical facilities.
The Pan American Games will be organised by Proyecto Especial Lima 2019, an organisation which will be over-seeing all activities at the multi-sport event but once the Games have finished, the Peru Hockey Federation will be moving in and providing opportunities for new players to take up the sport.
“This is separate from the TAP project,” says Gianni, “but after the pitches are done, we will start there with the TAP project also. It is a new place where we are going to develop our sport. The pitches are in a district that has a population of more than one million people, we are talking more than 4,000 kids.
“We want everybody playing hockey in that district of Lima. Once the the authorities see how we are developing the sport, then we think that they will start placing pitches in other places. I think that within the next four to eight years we could have 10,000 people playing hockey, maybe more.”
There are currently 400-600 people playing hockey in Chiclayo and Gianni estimates that around 1,500 people play in Peru in total. The target may seem over ambitious, but with the progress the Peru Hockey Federation has made in recent years, nothing is unachievable.