The new Secretary General of Panam Sports analyzes the present and future of the organization that began her career as a sports leader almost 40 years ago.

She is very happy and motivated with her new position and she assures that the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games will be a unique and unforgettable celebration for everyone.

Jimena Saldaña’s love for sports began at a very young age. She’s been a long jumper since her school days, but a rebellious knee injury prevented her from staying on the track. 

She is a football fan, especially for her favorite Mexican club Cruz Azul, going to the stadium with her family to watch them every chance she gets. She is always thrilled to experience multisport events like the Olympic and Pan American Games.

Now, she is excited for her next challenge as the new Secretary General of Panam Sports.

“Olympic sport is worn on the skin. It is sometimes an indescribable passion. Olympic values have a very special meaning in my life. I fell in love immediately and I have always tried to do my part,” says Jimena Saldaña while visiting the Panam Sports office in Santiago, Chile.

It was in November 1984 when her life would turn around on the work front. Back then, she participated in a General Assembly of the National Olympic Committees of America held in Mexico City. She worked in the transport module, and as fate would have it, she had the opportunity to translate a call from French into Spanish for the very President of the Pan American Sports Organization at the time, Mario Vazquez Raña. She didn’t imagine that this moment would be the beginning of a life full of challenges as sports leader.

Her idea was to only work for one year as an advisor to President Vazquez Raña, but that was not the case. They ended up working together for 30 years, helping the leader of sport in the Americas with both his media conglomerate before becoming more involved in the continent’s Olympic Movement.

The list of outstanding positions Saldaña has held include being an Executive Committee Member and Secretary General of the Pan American Sports Organization, Vice President of Centro Caribe Sports and until a few weeks ago, Second Vice President of Panam Sports.

After the departure of Ivar Sisniega to become the Presidency of the Mexican Football Federation, the search for his replacement began. However, the process was very fast. The President of Panam Sports, together with his Executive Committee, decided that the ideal person for this position was, without a doubt, Jimena Saldaña. It only took one call for President Neven Ilic to convince her to take the role. 

“I always knew that this call would change my life in a very important way. I am very grateful for the trust of President Ilic, the Executive Committee and the staff, who have opened the doors for me. I am getting on a train moving at full speed at a crucial moment. What I need now is to support everyone and close the chapter of the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games with a flourish,” says Jimena Saldaña.

“For me it means a great opportunity and a true privilege to be able to work doing what I enjoy. I am passionate about sports and what Panam Sports has done with the transformation of this organization for modern times. This organization has been strengthened by the hand of President Neven Ilic and I am excited to be able to work here and help all the athletes and National Olympic Committees. On a personal level, it is a life opportunity, and I think of it as the way to give back everything that sport has given me to me,” she adds.

How do feel taking on this new position, Jimena?
“The truth is that I do it with great joy and responsibility. I have a very special affection for Panam Sports, I have it in my heart. There is a young, very professional work team and that motivates me a lot. The main objective is that there is sustainable growth, that the NOCs are stronger and that we close the sporting gap between countries. There is a lot to do, a lot to consolidate. I love to see the dynamism and speed of this organization. We are experiencing great challenges, different times, we have been coming out of a pandemic and we have had to assume this responsibility of taking the Games forward together with Chile, when the world has had very difficult times.”

Do you feel part of this group of passionate women who are increasingly involved in the Olympic Movement and who are making people talk about their important roles?
“Yes of course, and I’m proud. Although, I think that we as women are the ones who set a ceiling and limits, which are not set by men. What you have to do is throw yourself into the ring, dare and give it everything you have. We are the ones who often limit ourselves. I really believe in the networks that all women can have. They can join forces, support each other and continue learning. I am very proud of the role of women in these modern times.”

What are the objectives that you have set for yourself, both personally and as a group, with your new position as Secretary General of Panam Sports?
“President Neven has outlined the objectives very clearly for us and the Executive Committee has understood and supported this. It is always about continuing to strengthen Panam Sports, not allowing it to be left behind. We have to solidify this body so that it is stronger and more representative. We must continue giving that hand to the Olympic Committees so they can develop and give them the tools they need to ensure the best conditions for our athletes so that they can continue to grow while representing their countries and the entire continent.”

How do you currently see sport across our continent?
“The Americas have always set the standard. For example, in gender equality, I think our continent is an example in the world. We have great athletes who stand out worldwide, but we have not yet been able to pull all the athletes from our region. We have strengths in the Caribbean that we must take advantage of. We must strengthen training and help our entire Pan American Family develop.”

And how is that achieved, Jimena?
“We must solidify sport throughout the continent, but also at a regional level. I am very surprised by what they are doing at Centro Caribe Sports and ODESUR. It is admirable. A lot of people sometimes say, ‘they are hosting a lot of Games’, but the truth is that we are opening doors for more athletes to fulfill their dreams. We have Pan American Games of an excellent level and Games that other continents do not have. And that is the strength that we must continue to develop. We are an automatic springboard for athletes and that should make us proud. At the organizational level, our mission is for the Olympic Committees to become more professional every day, for our message to reach more people, strengthen societies and help improve people’s health.”


A few days ago, Jimena Saldaña traveled to Santiago with the President of the Argentine Olympic Committee and President of the Santiago 2023 Coordination Commission, Mario Moccia. On that occasion they met with the Panam Sports staff, held meetings with the Santiago 2023 Corporation and toured the sports venues and the Pan American Village.

After a week of hard work, the new Secretary General takes stock of what she saw in the Chilean capital.

Are you feeling calm about Santiago 2023 now that we are less than 60 days from the start of the Games?
“Yes, honestly yes. I am very happy and calm with what I have seen. Red flags always arise in this type of event, where you have to pay more attention. But the truth is that I see them excellently well-prepared. I see a solid Organizing Committee that is fortunate to have Panam Sports supporting them, and if we join the Chilean Olympic Committee and the government of this country, I think they have everything they need to succeed.”

You had the opportunity to tour the Sports Venues and the Pan American Village here in Santiago. What is your opinion of what you were able to see?
“The sports venues are advancing at high speeds and everything will surely arrive on time. The village is spectacular, I think it is the best we have ever had. It provides great comfort to the athletes. Now we must concentrate on the whole issue of operation, provide support and help with training so that everything turns out wonderfully.”

What is your opinion of the situation of Guatemalan athletes who will compete but will not represent their country at Santiago 2023?
“This is a conflict between sport leaders, and I believe that athletes should never suffer or be harmed by leadership problems. In the Central American and Caribbean Games they had a very good participation. It is sad not to see your flag up high, and not to hear your anthem, but the athletes are fulfilling the dreams they had as children. Here at Santiago 2023, the same thing will happen. It is not fair that for an issue that you have nothing to do with, you cannot compete. Panam Sports came out with this great decision to support a delegation that achieved its qualification and will be present in Chile participating in this celebration. It’s not the best of circumstances, but we always have to put the athletes first.”

What would be the message that you give to the athletes, leaders and all who will come to enjoy the festival of Santiago 2023?
“One of the things I like the most is that the athletes, officials and all the delegations enjoy this experience. These Games are the product of a joint effort by the 41 Olympic Committees, our President, the Executive Committee, all the staff of Panam Sports, the Santiago 2023 Corporation and the Government of Chile. We are all doing our best and we want these Games to be a success. We will be waiting for you with open arms so that you can live a unique and unforgettable experience.”

You look very happy Jimena…
“Yes it’s true. I’m happy. I am a person who wakes up every day with an endless list of things and projects. I am passionate, I love sports and I love to learn. Every day something new is learned and I want to catch this new vitality of Panam Sports, its President and his entire team. There is much to continue contributing to the sporting development of the continent. And that makes me happy and very motivated.”