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The Spirit of Friendship Through Sports: Poster Images from the Pan-American Games, 1951-1999


“The Spirit of Friendship Through Sports” is an educational exhibit of historic poster and graphic images promoting the Pan American Games. The exhibit has been created from images residing in the sports art and library collections of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.

“The Spirit of Friendship Through Sports” is published under the copyright of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, 1999 and LA84 Foundation, 2007.

The individual images used in “The Spirit of Friendship through Sports” are the copyrighted property of the original rights holders or their designees. These images are used here under the fair use provision of the Copyright Act.

Individuals may reproduce a single copy of the text for educational purposes only. Any reproduction should cite the Amateur Athletic Foundation as publisher and copyright owner. The sale or commercial use of this work, or any portion thereof, in any format, is prohibited.

A History of the Pan American Games

The Pan American Games bring together athletes from the countries of the Americas in a festival of sport and international friendship. The Games are held every four years in the year preceding the Olympic Games. The first Pan American Games took place in 1951 at Buenos Aires, Argentina, but they originated more than two decades earlier. At the Olympic Congress coinciding with the 1924 Olympic Games at Paris, France, the International Olympic Committee members from Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico proposed the establishment of regional games for the countries of Central America. These games became reality two years later when Mexico City hosted the first Central American Games.

At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games, representatives of the Latin American delegations proposed regional Games for all the Americas. This proposal eventually led to the first meeting of the Pan American Sports Congress at Buenos Aires in August 1940. The Congress selected Buenos Aires to host the first Pan American Games in 1942, but World War II forced postponement of these games.

Although the 1942 Pan American Games never took place, at least one poster was created on their behalf. The image shows a male figure in the foreground holding a javelin. The background reveals a view of the globe showing the Americas. The globe is encircled with the flags of 21 Pan American countries. Countries from the British Commonwealth, did not participate in the early Pan American Sports Congress. The lithograph poster was designed by artist Falier Totaro in 1941.

A second Pan American Sports Congress met at the 1948 London Olympic Games where plans were revived. The first Pan American Games opened on February 25, 1951, at Buenos Aires. More than 2,500 athletes from 22 countries participated.

The organization governing the Games was renamed, in 1955, as the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO). Currently, 42 nations of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean comprise the organization. The official languages are Spanish and English. PASO has headquarters in Mexico City and is presided over by Mario Vasquez Raña of Mexico, who also is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

The PASO emblem is a torch superimposed over five concentric circles of the colors green, yellow, white, red and blue. At least one of these colors appears on every national flag of the Americas. PASO’s motto “America, Espirito, Sport, Fraternité” incorporates four of the languages in common use in the Americas: Spanish, Portuguese, English and French. The phrase loosely translates to English as “The American spirit of friendship through sports.”

The Central American and Caribbean Games

The Pan American Games are, in many ways, the offspring of the Central American Games. During the 1924 Congress of the International Olympic Committee, the Cuban and Guatemalan delegates, urged on by Mexico’s Alfredo B. Cuellar and Enrique C. Aguirre, suggested the establishment of the Central American Games. The first games took place in Mexico, in 1926, with 269 athletes from Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico. Eight countries participated at the II Central American Games held four years later in Havana.

By 1938 the Games were renamed the Central American and Caribbean Games and they are the oldest regional games. The Central American and Caribbean Sport Organization (ODECABE) now boasts 32 member countries. More than 5,000 athletes attended the XVIII Central and Caribbean Games, held at Maracaibo, Venezuela, in 1998.

These images are from posters created for the I and II Central American Games in 1926 and 1930. The 1926 image depicts a profile of a nude athlete holding a large stylized olive branch. Crests of the Central American countries emanate from the branch, interesting given that only three countries participated. The Central American Games symbol is at the top of the image. The symbol is three colored discs pierced left to right by a black javelin. The 1930 image shows a thinly clad runner with a baton in hand. A skyline depiction of Havana is placed at the bottom of the image. The background reveals a map of Central American with the city of Havana highlighted by two circles. A red band runs across the top third of the image.

Buenos Aires

I Pan American Games

Buenos Aires, Argentina

February 25 – March 8, 1951

The first Pan American Sports Congress, meeting in late August of 1940, scheduled the inaugural Pan American Games for Buenos Aires in 1942. The outbreak of World War II prevented the celebration of these Games, but Argentina nonetheless maintained its commitment. The II Pan American Sports Congress, held at the 1948 London Olympic Games, approved plans for holding the Games three years later in Buenos Aires. On February 25, 1951, Argentine President Juan Peron opened the inaugural Games before an estimated crowd of 100,000 with his wife Evita, co-president of the Games, standing beside him. Twenty-one countries sent 2,513 athletes to compete in 18 sports. The host Argentine team performed especially well, winning 150 medals, including 68 gold. Despite having trouble raising the money to send a large contingent of athletes, the United States Olympic Committee sent 175 women and men to compete. The contingent flew on two different types of aircraft chartered from, appropriately enough, Pan American Airways: a Double-Decked “Strato” Clipper and the Panagra DC-6.

Several poster images were produced for the first Pan American Games. Each poster uses the flags of the participating nations as a design motif. The 1950 poster by Alfonsín portrays a theme of peace and friendship by featuring two clasped hands holding a graphically stylized olive branch over a grid map of the Americas. Behind the hands, the flags of the Pan American countries fly on nine poles with the flag of Argentina top and center. The Games logo, showing clasped hands holding a torch on a blue and white field, the colors of Argentina’s flag, sits in the upper right-hand corner of the poster.

Mexico City

II Pan American Games

Mexico City

March 12 – 26, 1955

The II Pan American Games were held in the mile and a half altitude of Mexico City. The opening ceremony welcomed 2,583 athletes from 22 countries competing in 17 sports. Athletes from Canada competed for the first time. The Games events were very popular with the Mexican fans. One and a half million free tickets were offered to the general public so that people of all economic classes could attend the games. More than 6,000 crowded in to see the volleyball final in an arena designed for only 4,000. The United States sent a large contingent of more than 300 athletes even though some sports had trouble recruiting athletes because the Games were held during the school year. A number of organizations such as Time-Life, the YMCA, the Jaycees, Jewish Welfare and the Harlem Globetrotters helped raise the necessary funds. A highlight of the Games was the immensely popular athletes’ village located on the campus of University of Mexico.

The artist Rueda-Tapia designed two posters to popularize the Games. Fifty-two hundred copies of the first poster were distributed throughout the Pan-American countries for use by the respective national Olympic committees. On a black background, a wind-whipped flame burns from a stylized cauldron placed on the right side of the poster. The artist’s name is displayed vertically at the middle right edge of the poster. The name of the printer “Lito-Offset Commercial” is printed below the image on the right.


III Pan American Games

Chicago, USA

August 27 – September 7, 1959

The III Pan American Games were the first held in North America. The Games originally were scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio, but the U.S. Congress’ decision to cut $5,000,000 in federal funding forced the city to withdraw as host. Chicago, led by Mayor Richard J. Daley, then became the choice of PASO. The Games opened at Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 2,263 athletes competing in 18 sports. Yachting was on the sports program for the first time. The male athletes’ village was located on the campus of the University of Chicago. The 298 women athletes stayed nearby at the Shoreland Hotel.

The Spanish-language poster below features a stylized graphic figure in the act of performing the shot put. The figure is depicted in black outline and colored in yellow and orange with white shadowing. The background of the poster is black. On the right, are the words “chicago” and “ciudad de agasjos,” meaning “Chicago, city of hospitality.” African-American artist D.W. McIlvaine, then graphics chief for the city’s neighborhood services program, designed the lithograph poster. It was printed by Allied Printing of Chicago.

A second popular image appeared on the cover of the official bulletin. The image shows a male athlete hurdling over the skyline of downtown Chicago. Below the skyline are two hands clasped in a handshake. Together the three elements bring together the themes of the athletic competition, the city of Chicago and friendship. The phrase “friendship through sports” is printed at the bottom of the skyline image. The PASO logo is placed to the left of the hurdler with the informative text printed on several lines at the top of the image.

São Paulo

IV Pan American Game

São Paulo, Brazil

April 20 – May 5, 1963

The IV Pan American Games opened before 40,000 spectators in the main stadium, with a view of mountains and the city’s skyline. More than 1,600 athletes from 22 countries participated in 19 sports. Judo was contested for the first time. Basketball, a popular sport in Brazil, drew large crowds. An estimated 30,000 people jammed into the 18,500-seat basketball arena to watch the game between the United States and Brazil.

This promotional poster for the Games shows athletes engaged in two different sports. Three athletes are set against a black background and the Roman numeral IV that takes up nearly half the total image. There are two track and field athletes, one running and the other throwing the discus. To the right of these figures, a basketball player is performing a lay-up shot. The “I” of the Roman numeral four adds the sense of the height of a basketball goal. Below the athletes the phrase “Pan American Games” is printed on three separate lines in Portugese, Spanish and English. The poster was designed by the artist Colábor and was printed by Belmari, Lit.


V Pan American Games

Winnipeg, Canada

July 23 – August 6, 1967

In what was the largest sporting event held in Canada to that time, the Winnipeg Pan American Games played host to 2,361 athletes from 29 countries, competing in 18 sports. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, opened the Games during an opening ceremony held in a pouring rainstorm. The citizens of Winnipeg were enthusiastic hosts of the Games, with more than 9,000 people volunteering their time. Another 1,000 men from the Canadian armed forces assisted in such duties as administration, transportation and protocol. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired 50 hours of coverage on television and radio.

Nearly any item associated with the V Pan American Games, including programs, vehicles, buildings, place mats and this poster, incorporated the popular logo. Winnipeg designer-artist William J. Mayrs, creative director of Maclaren Advertising, created the logo to communicate the idea of a Canadian sporting event. It represents the torso of an athlete with a Canadian maple leaf, the country’s national symbol, on the singlet. The arms are outstretched as a sign of welcome to the athletes and visitors to Canada. Bernard Michelski designed the actual poster. Forty thousand copies of the poster were distributed by the Canadian Government Travel Bureau.


VI Pan American Games

Cali, Colombia

July 30 – August 13, 1971

Cali, Colombia, the City of Eternal Spring, located at the foot of the Andes Mountains, hosted the VI Pan American Games. The highlight of the opening ceremony was a synchronized dance routine involving 12,000 young girls dressed in native costumes. A total of 2,935 athletes from 32 countries took part in 17 sports. The U.S. basketball team was surprised when it lost to Cuba in the preliminary round and was eliminated from the medals.

Colombian artist Alejandro Obregón created this image in honor of the Games. Born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1920, Obregón is known for his expressionist images relying on signs and symbols of Latin American culture. The abstract design reveals three figures based on the logo of the Games. The logo was derived from a native South American symbol.

Mexico City

VII Pan American Games

Mexico City

October 12 – 26, 1975

Mexico City stepped in to host the Games after Santiago, Chile, and São Paulo, Brazil, withdrew their offers. It was the third major sporting event held there in seven years, after the 1968 Olympic Games and the 1970 soccer World Cup.

The design of this poster shows a tornado-like funnel built from layers of the Games logo emerging from a map of the Americas with Mexico City being the point of origin. The logo uses Mexico’s national colors and comprises a graphic rendition of the letter “M”, for Mexico.

San Juan

VIII Pan American Games

San Juan, Puerto Rico

July 1 – 15, 1979

The historic capital city of Puerto Rico played host to 3,700 athletes from 34 countries competing in 22 sports, making the VIII Pan American Games the largest to date. Security was a concern due to turmoil over the issue of Puerto Rican statehood. The CBS television network broadcast 12 hours of coverage in the United States.

Artist Lorenzo Homar designed the symbol of the VIII Pan American Games. Born in Puerta de Tierra, Puerto Rico in 1913, Homar emigrated to New York when he was a teenager and began working for the Cartier jewelry company. After World War II, he studied graphic arts at the Brooklyn Museum under the artists Tamayo, Osver and Peterdi. Homar selected the collar because of its cultural and sports heritage. The symbol of the Games is based upon the Taíno Collar, a well-known archeological artifact of the Taíno Indians who inhabited Puerto Rico before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The symbol consists of the collar with a torch in its center. The modern graphic version depicts the torch’s flame as a flying dove.


IX Pan American Games

Caracas, Venezuela

August 14 – 29, 1983

A year before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, the Caracas Pan American Games welcomed 3,426 athletes from 36 countries. More nations competed in yachting than any other sport. Doping became an issue after officials announced they would conduct sophisticated drug tests. Seventeen athletes tested positive for doping, and a dozen members of the United States men’s track and field team suddenly departed the Games for “personal reasons.”


X Pan American Games

Indianapolis, USA

August 8 – 23, 1987

The Pan American Games came to the United States for the second time. The opening ceremony was held at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Games continued to grow as 4,453 athletes from 38 countries participated. More than 2,000 members of the media covered the Games. In track and field, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, of the United States, equaled the world record in the long jump.

The most distinctive graphic element of the X Pan American Games was the ubiquitous official symbol. The “X” logo was designed by J. Michael Hayes of JMH Corporation, Indianapolis. The company also created the sport pictograms. The symbol shows a repeating Roman numeral ten in an overlapping suggestion of depth through lines of varying weights. The symbol suggests motion, calisthenics and unity. The five colors (blue, purple, red, orange and yellow) move from cool to warm to suggest a dynamic, festive atmosphere.

The official poster of the X Pan American Games, entitled “The Celebration of Flags,” was designed by artist Nancy A. Noël to represent the festive coming together of the 38 Pan American nations. Colorado-based artist David Brownstead created a limited edition commemorative poster of the Games, entitled “The Flair.” The piece stylizes the grace and agility of the athletes competing in the Games. Both posters were published by the Distinctive Image, Inc. and printed by Frederick Printing of Aurora, Colorado.


XI Pan American Games

Havana, Cuba

August 8 – 18, 1991

The XI Pan American Games opened in Havana’s new Pan American Stadium before a crowd of 35,000. The opening ceremony was an elaborate affair involving nearly 13,000 participants. A total of 4,519 athletes from 39 countries competed in 27 sports. The Pan American Games torch relay began with the ritual lighting of the flame in Cerro de Estrella, Mexico and followed a route around Cuba to the torch’s destination at the stadium. Cuban athletes enjoyed great success in the sports competition, winning 140 gold medals.

Promotional posters depicted the Games’ symbol and mascot. The symbol was designed by Roberto Martinez Diaz, head of the Photographic Design Staff of the Young Communist National Committee. The image combines the letters “J” and “P” (for Juegos Panamericanos) to give a feeling of perpetual movement. It uses Cuba’s national colors: red, white and blue. Artist Omar Hechevarria Silveira, designed Tocopán, the little bird mascot of the Games. He is a tocororo, the national bird of Cuba. Tocopán’s name combines the first syllables of tocororo and Pan American.

Mar de Plata

XII Pan American Games

Mar de Plata, Argentina

March 11-26, 1995

The seaside resort city of Mar de Plata welcomed the XII Pan American Games. The city of 600,000, located 400 km south of Buenos Aires, hosted 5,144 athletes from 42 countries in 34 different sports. A number of new sports appeared on the program including karate, squash and triathlon.

Promotional and informational posters for the Games featured the official logo and the mascot. The logo uses the Roman numeral XII to convey as send of moving athletes based on the words “Juegos Deportivos Panamericanos” (Pan American Sports Games). The words are constructed to imply a launching point or podium.

The mascot, Lobi, is a sea lion, an animal commonly found in the waters of Mar de Plata. He stands for the host city and is displayed with welcoming open arms.


XIII Pan American Games

Winnipeg, Canada

July 23-August 8, 1999

Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba, will host the Pan American Games for the second time. Over 5,000 athletes will come to Canada to compete in 35 sports. Women will compete in soccer, weightlifting, modern pentathlon and water polo for the first time. As with the 1967 Pan American Games, volunteers will be a vital part of the event. More than 17,000 people will donate their time to welcome the athletes of the Americas.

The Pan American Games logo is intended as a symbol of celebration of life, sport, competition, friendship, culture, and the strength of the human spirit. Its design captures both universal and uniquely Manitoba symbols. At a glance, the logo resembles a flame within a cauldron, the symbol of Games and sport excellence. The flame can also be seen as the welcoming sun, and as the head of a person whose outstretched arms invite the people of the Americas to Winnipeg. These arms also can be interpreted as the lanes of a track.

The converging lines are also emblematic of two local symbols: the joining of Winnipeg’s two rivers, the Red and Assiniboine, and Manitoba’s flowing fields of grain.

The games mascots were Pato Panamericano, a wood duck and Lorita Panamericana, a parrot.