The free-admission policy to all events except a few finals has produced overflow crowds at most Pan American games sites, with fans lining up as many as 10 hours early to assure entry.
The longest lines have been at gymnastics, boxing, basketball, volleyball and weight lifting, which have relatively limited seating areas.
At the volleyball, spectators arrive for morning matches to make certain they have seats for evening contests in which they are especially interested. Guards count the fans as they go in and stop access when the limit is reached. After that, hundreds of persons wait hopefully outside, to replace any who leave during the day.
In most cases, spectators have been well-behaved. There were frightful crushes at the opening ceremony and at the Venezuela-Uruguay soccer game, however, as fans surged past the guards. At the soccer stadium, the gates were shut forcibly to restrain the crowd outside.
Although the organizing committee said it had adopted the free-admission plan so that the poorest person could see an event, rumor has it that the real reason was failure to get tickets printed in time.
This was somewhat substantiated Wednesday, the day tickets were scheduled to go on sale for finals in soccer, boxing, baseball, basketball and volleyball. They were not available and nobody has indicated either reason for the delay or a new date.
One excited fan at the U.S.-Nicaragua baseball game threw a beer in the face of U.S. pitcher Billy Swift as Swift left the game. The fan then jumped onto the field and was pursued by armed soldiers, who hauled him away. The presence of the soldiers, most carrying submachine guns, is somewhat disconcerting to visitors.
Most U.S. athletes have adapted well to life at the Pan American village, despite its obvious deficiencies.
"It's like a small town, with its own main street, and all the athletes get together," said swimmer Rowdy Gaines. "My biggest problem was brushing my teeth, because you're not supposed to drink the water and brushing with bottled water can be a little awkward."
Bob Bennett, the U.S. baseball coach, found brushing very awkward. "They gave us a tube of anti-itch cream and with the dim lights, I brushed my teeth with it the other night," Bennett said. "I really gagged. The next morning I asked the doctor if I'd be okay and he said, 'sure, and you probably won't need to worry about an itchy throat, either.' "
There was no shortage of water for Bill Hollenback, president of the U.S. Rowing Association. Climbing the tower to start the competition Wednesday, Hollenback landed in the water when the temporary structure collapsed.
"It's all part of the sport," said Hollenback.
Venezuelan customs can be confusing to visitors. At pools and beaches, the natives wear the barest of minimums, but on the street they do not wear shorts.
William Simon, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, wore cutoff jeans to the tennis competition and was refused admission to the clubhouse when he sought to buy a drink.
Jerry Lace, USOC operations director, and two companions removed their shirts at a softball game to soak up the sun. A spectator complained and they were ordered to put on their shirts.
Fans watching the U.S.-Canada baseball game piqued the players' interest by cheering at seemingly irrelevant times. It turned out they were not listening to another event on radio, as suspected, but were engaging in the local sport of howling whenever an attractive woman passed through the stands.
Most of the sports take place in beautiful sites, no surprise because Caracas is in a valley surrounded by mountains and offers breathtaking views. The basketball, water polo and weight lifting are conducted near the La Rinconada race course, which is festooned with flowers in a climate where frost is no threat.
Perhaps the most amazing sight, however, is the view beyond the outfield at the Palo Verde baseball stadium. There are two high hills, both occupied right to the top by small houses, where fans sat on their roofs to watch the game. When the sun went down, lights twinkled on, making the two hills resemble giant Christmas trees.
Unfortunately, the field did not match the scenery. Too much nitrogen was used on the grass, burning most of it off and leaving a desert-like surface.
The main baseball stadium, used by the Leones of the Venezuelan winter league, is major league caliber, though.
Canada, three points ahead with 30 seconds left, lost its basketball game to Puerto Rico, 90-89, on two controversial calls, the referee in each case stopping play to reset the clock after the Canadians had beaten the Puerto Rican press.
"The incredible thing was it was an American ref," said Canadian Coach Jack Donohue. "I could have believed it of somebody else."
Apparently, Donohue's memories of his days at Holy Cross have dimmed, since he was known to question a decision or two by U.S. referees.
Except for a couple of gold medals in shooting, Venezuela has found victories difficult to attain. What the hosts should have demanded was the inclusion of motorcycle racing in traffic, at which they are the best in the world.
Automobiles frequently are backed up on the expressways here, chugging along at 5 or 10 mph, but the motorcycles, given legal right of way, whip between them at speeds of 60 or more.