efe-epaLa Paz

Bolivian authorities are working full speed ahead to have everything ready on time to host the 11th South American Games exactly one year from now in the central region of Cochabamba.

In a statement to EFE, Bolivian Sports Minister Tito Montaño said that progress is being made in two very important areas: construction of the sports infrastructure and "organization of the event itself."

"Both activities are making significant progress, and that's great because it's important to show we're on schedule and that the dates set by the games'executive committee are being met," he said.

Last February the Evo Morales government declared the South American Games a "national priority" in order to set in motion the contracting of construction companies without delay, so the works can be completed according to schedule.

In Cochabamba and the other eight municipalities that will host the various events, the renovation and maintenance of existing structures and the building of new sports facilities are simultaneously underway, according to the Codesur committee in charge of organizing the games.

But, Montaño said, most important of all will be the Villa Sudamericana, to be built in the Cochabamba district of La Tamborada, and which will lodge some 4,000 athletes from the 14 countries expected to take part in the games.

The villa includes 14 buildings with a total of 672 apartments with room to put up the athletes, and will also have a hotel, a soccer stadium with a track for athletics, a cycling stadium, a mixed-sports complex for basketball, volleyball, futsal, gymnastics and more.

During the first phase of the project, which was inaugurated last October and is being handled by seven companies, had an investment of $34 million for the apartment blocks, which after the games will form the basis of a social housing plan.

The second phase, which kicked off in April, includes the construction of sports facilities in the villa, as well as a hotel with 250 rooms, for a total investment of $15.9 million.

Once the South American Games are over, the sports infrastructure will provide a highly challenging training center where Bolivian athletes can get ready for other competitions.

"We believe the strongest motivation for doing this right is seeing the games as the relaunch of Bolivian sports," Montaño said.

The main challenge will be having the country represented by athletes in each and every discipline, he said.

Montaño believes Bolivians will do well in sports where they have traditionally been outstanding, such as racquetball, athletics, cycling, sports shooting, long distance running and race walking, and has every hope they will cause some surprises in other competitions.

By Gina Baldivieso.