Argentina took the first step towards the creation of a higher sports entity in the continent, in 1976. However, without support from the military government then under formation, the local Olympic Committee could not turn the idea into a reality. So, the president of the Bolivian Olympic Committee, José Gamarra Zorrilla, assumed the project of spreading the Olympic ideal throughout South America. In that same year, he promoted a Congress in La Paz, Bolivia, and, in partnership with the presidents of the National Committees of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Peru founded the South American Sports Organization (ODESUR) on March 26, 1976, under the auspices and guidance of Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) – entity that promotes the Pan American Games and is affiliated to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), responsible for the Olympic Games.

The by-laws and regulations of ODESUR were approved the following year in a second congress, also in La Paz. In the occasion, it was decided that the entity would promote the first edition of the South Cross Games – renamed to South American Games from the third edition on – in Bolivia, as soon as possible.

However, the first Games of ODESUR would only be held after the third Congress, in June 1978, in Santiago, Chile. In the meeting, the regulations of the Organizing Committee and the program of the Games were approved, and José Gamarra Zorrilla was assigned as president of ODESUR as well.

The 15 countries comprising ODESUR today are: Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Check the list below for the former presidents of ODESUR

1976 – 1982 José Gamarra Zorrilla Bolivia
1982 – 1986 Cnl. (R) Antonio Rodríguez Argentina
1986 – 1988 Juan Carlos Esguep (no terminó mandato) Chile
1988 – 1994 Raúl Gamboa Perú
1994 – 1998 Sabino Hernández Venezuela
1998 – 2003 Cnl. (R) Antonio Rodríguez Argentina
2003 - Carlos Arthur Nuzman Brasil