May 22, 2009
By Chula Vista City Councilman Rudy Ramirez
May 9, 2009 was turning out to be a perfect day in positive cross border relations between Chula Vista and Tijuana as I commenced the Opening Ceremony of the 2nd Annual International Friendship Games at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Otay Ranch.
Earlier in the day I greeted over 200 young Mexican athletes at the Otay Mesa border crossing station, athletes invited to join Chula Vista youth for a day of friendly athletic competitions (a.k.a. IFG 2009) in soccer, softball, basketball, and track and field. As I waited for these young athletes to cross the border from Tijuana, Mexicali, Ensenada, and Rosarito I reflected on the preparations of the past six months for the event, and was reminded that hard work and perseverance does indeed overcome challenges, challenges encountered during the planning of IFG 2009 and perhaps even challenges I and other elected officials face with regard to cross border relations.
Looking back, I remembered it was not an easy task to execute IFG 2009. It would have never happened if it weren’t for the tremendous contributions of corporate sponsors who funded every component of the event, from athlete transportation to athlete food, and community members who gave their time and expertise as volunteers ensuring a memorable experience for all. We, as a team, overcame budget shortfalls due to the national economic downturn, dealt with the implications of the Pandemic Swine Flu, and even tackled immigration issues to bring together Mexican and United States youth for IFG 2009. If IFG 2009 was merely a sporting event perhaps it would have been postponed or even cancelled in light of these obstacles, but IFG 2009 was much more than it appeared to most yes, it was a unique program combining four different sports in one venue - but it also was a means to bring together municipal, county, and civic leaders in a manner that emphasized bridges, not walls, and focused on opportunities, not just difficulties.
As Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox , Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos, Supervisor Greg Cox, Civic Leader David Bejarano, myself and other community leaders stood on Mater Dei’s stadium field, in front of over a thousand spectators with over 700 spirited athletes from Mexico and the United States behind us, an opportunity was seized signifying walls are never too high for bridges to be built. With the awesome backdrop of athletes, spectators, and the grandness of the Mater Dei stadium itself, the cities of Chula Vista and Tijuana united and the purpose of IFG to foster socio-economic relationships between Chula Vista and Tijuana was achieved. A perfect day for me and from all accounts for everyone in attendance.