GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Twelve years ago, a dream started.
A city started to take shape in its quest to host a continental event. Now, it's only hours before this city opens its arms and receives the XVI Pan American Games with an opening ceremony that promises to surprise locals and visitors.
The Perla Tapatía, as this city is called, is ready to amaze a whole continent and show how a country has been able to surpass infinite number of adversities. In a few hours, not a word will be spoken of the violence that has engulfed Mexico, of the country's insecurities, of the economic crisis.
On Friday, Guadalajara hopes to enchant all of the Americas with a unique 2-1/2-hour ceremony that will start at 9:30 p.m. ET. The organizing committee and Five Currents Co. have prepared a ceremony that will serve as a window to millions of people who can enjoy a colorful Mexico full of traditions that combine its culture with present time.
"I'm sure that we will surprise everyone with our opening ceremony," said Carlos Andrade-Garín, president of the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games Organizing Committee. "It will be really spectacular, whether it rains or not. We are prepared to surprise the whole continent so they know that Guadalajara is a worthy host.
"It has been too many years of trying to get selected as the host city. It could not be done in 2003, when it went to Santo Domingo, neither in 2007. It has been more than a decade of hard work and great effort that will now be reflected with Games that we hope are the best in history. We have worked for that and we hope that on Oct. 30 we can say we fulfilled our goal and that everyone -- fans, athletes and the whole PASO [Pan American Sports Organization] family -- leaves satisfied and smiling."
ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com had a chance to take a peek during a dress rehearsal earlier in the week, and the show will have things never before seen. The main characteristic will be the interaction with the public at Omnilife Stadium, opened in 2010 and considered the most modern and avant garde installation in Latin America.
"Five Currents, the company that prepared the show for the opening ceremony, is an experienced company in this type of events, among them the 2007 Games at Rio de Janeiro and will also be responsible for the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England," said Ivar Sisniega, operations director for the organizing committee. "We can assure you that the opening ceremony is going to be top level."
Among the top entertainers confirmed for the ceremony are Mexican rock group Maná and Mexican folk singer Alejandro Fernández, as well as Olivia Wornat, Nortec, Bostich & Fussible, Eugenia León, Juanes, Mariachi Vargas from Tecalitlán, and Ximena Navarrette, former Mexican Miss Universe in 2010.
Among the mysteries of the ceremony is where the Pan American fire will be burning for the next two weeks. It had been rumored it would be the biggest torch in any Games endorsed by the International Olympic Committee, Olympic Games included, and would break a Guinness Book world record.
Another of the surprises: which Mexican athlete will light the Pan Am fire. The last four bearers will be high-profile Mexican athletes, including former pro golfer Lorena Ochoa, as well as soccer megastar Javier "Chicharito" Hernández.