The selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympics last month denied the U.S. an automatic bid for the 2016 Olympics. This means that the U.S. will need to play its way in through qualification and historically this has meant winning the Gold medal in Handball at the Pan American (PANAM) Games the year prior to the Olympics. This week the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) will be meeting in Guadalajara and on Friday, 6 October, they will announce the host city for the 2015 PANAM Games. In contention are the cities of Toronto (Canada), Lima (Peru) and Bogota (Colombia).
Without question the preferred city for USA Team Handball is Toronto. Next door and with a familiar environment and climate it would be the next best thing to hosting the tournament in country. A South America city would require a longer trip and mean games would be played in a hotter climate with less familiar surroundings. Doesn’t mean the U.S., or Canada for that matter, can’t win in Peru or Colombia, it just means that there would be an added degree of difficulty.
The good news is that it appears Toronto is the odds on favorite to be selected for a number of reasons. First off, neither Canada or the U.S. haven’t hosted a PANAM Games since Winnipeg in 1999 (Dominican Republic (2003); Rio (2007); Guadalajara (2011)) Infrastructure wise Toronto is clearly superior. Finally, with Rio’s 2016 victory speculation is that South America doesn’t need two big events in back to back years (or 3 if you count the 2014 World Cup). Of course, as Chicago will attest, being the odds on favorite doesn’t always mean much in Olympic organization voting.
Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the path for Olympic qualification will remain the same. There’s talk of a new North American Handball Federation (NAHF) http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.814, and that could certainly change the qualification structure. But with Olympic berths at a premium such a change won’t come easily. Additionally, even if a NAHF is put in place a potential compromise might very well combine the South and North entities for Olympic qualification. The 2011 PANAM Games are scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico and barring some major changes at the upcoming IHF Extraordinary Congress in April those games will likely determine the PATHF representative for London 2012. It also won’t be surprising if the path remains the same for 2016.
Editor's Note: It's been kindly brought to my attention that the climate in both Lima and Bogota is relatively mild, so scratch off hot weather as a factor. But for Bogota, be sure to bring oxygen as it sits at 8,661 ft above sea level. The U.S. should hold it's training camp in Leadville, Colorado should they get awarded host city.
Gamebids.com: Toronto 2015 Pan Am Bid Chief Knows Where PASO Support Lies: http://www.gamesbids.com/eng/commonwealth_games_bids/1216134810.html
National Post: Toronto confident, mostly, as Pan Am Games decision nears: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2009/11/02/toronto-confident-mostly-as-pan-am-games-decision-nears.aspx