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‘This is the biggest so far’: Panam Sports President excited for #PEC23

More athletes, more nations, and more eyes on the action than ever before, the Pan American Esports Championships heads for the record books


Neven Ilic. Photo: Panam Sports

In just a matter of weeks, esports competitors representing 41 nations will take their place alongside thousands of their country’s athletes in the Santiago 2023 Pan American Village. In the same national team uniforms, some of the continent’s finest athletes will head to the Parque Deportivo Estadio Nacional, the very heart of Santiago 2023, where they will compete for the honor of winning the first-ever Pan American Esports Championship (#PEC23) medal.


It is set to be a monumental occasion, and the leaders who have dedicated years to making Santiago 2023 a truly game-changing moment for Chile, are ready.


“It will be the first time you ever see Chile against Mexico in esports and I can’t wait for that.”

Neven Ilic, President, Panam Sports & International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member

“We reviewed everything, the Commonwealth Esports Championships, the European Games Esports Championships, but this is bigger - in terms of countries participating, and the investment in the competition here.”


It is quite a statement from the former Director of Chile’s National Tennis Federation and past President of the Chilean Olympic Committee (2004 through 2017). But there is something about the dynamism, the #worldconnected nature, and the sheer popularity of esports that has caught his eye and attention.


“We are really impressed by the amount of people following these competitions around the world. I saw some competitions in Brazil, with full stadia, 40,000 spectators supporting,” Ilic said, before adding, “And here in Chile about three weeks ago they had a qualifying tournament #PEC23 inside FestiGame, a long-running esports gathering and there were 50,000 people there.”


The level of passion, these numbers, combined with the reaction from Chile’s sports media – “they cannot wait to see what will happen” – and, most importantly, the excitement of the public (including that of his gaming-obsessed sons) more than justified Santiago 2023’s decision to put #PEC23 front and center of the Games.


“The place where we will host the competition is fantastic, it’s in the middle of everything. It’s like a giant fan-fest area, there are different restaurants and activations there,” the 61-year-old Ilic confirmed.


Fans inside the Games Park will be invited to get involved ahead of the action. As well as firing-up eFootball™ 2023 and Dota 2 tournaments, the aspiring esports stars of the future will get a chance to “play loads of different games” and check out “the latest technology”.


Also, if that was not enough, for the very first time in international sport, Panam Sports and the Global Esports Federation are hoping to see some of the stars of traditional Pan Am sports take on their esports counterparts on the big screens.


“We will probably do this in the Village also,” President Ilic revealed.


A commitment to taking the plunge and trying things that have never been done before has made natural allies of Ilic and the GEF.


“They are doing a fantastic job, creating a lot of competitions and formats, giving opportunities to different athletes, professionals, amateurs, teams,” Ilic said.


“They have done a lot of important work, they have a plan and follow it step-by-step. In two years, they have done an excellent job. It is not easy to be a new federation and to convince the world that ‘Here we are and we want to promote, develop and give opportunities around the world’.”


The fact that GEF CEO, Paul J. Foster, has “enough energy for everyone” clearly helps.


With the Santiago 2023 Opening Ceremony looming large on October 20 – esports athletes will march with their delegations in the Closing Ceremony – Ilic is ready for Panam Sports and the GEF to take this significant first step.


“The idea is to understand how this all works and how we can combine the two philosophies, the spirits of the Games to mix both worlds,” he said, before delivering a final message:


“I invite everybody first to come to the Pan American Games in my country, I am very proud about that, and then to come and to see what we are doing with esports. That will be a great experience for people from Chile and for people around the world, watching it on TV and on stream.


“The Pan American Games will be fantastic and I am sure the #PEC23 will be incredible too. It’s a good opportunity for everybody to see the best athletes of America being part of the same unique competition.”

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