BOGOTÁ (AP) – Despite the pandemic that forced the America’s Cup to be postponed for a year, and the growing spread of coronavirus in Colombia, the country’s sports minister ratified on Thursday the government’s commitment to co-host the event together with Argentina next year.

Minister Ernesto Lucena reiterated the support of Colombian President Iván Duque for holding the event in the Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla sub-offices. That last city will host the final.

Lucena spoke in a session in which CONMEBOL and the Colombian government reactivated communications about the Copa América, which was originally due to take place from June 12 to July 12.

The health emergency forced the event to be postponed for a year, although the organizers hope to keep the original format.

As of Thursday, the Colombian Ministry of Health had confirmed 286,020 cases and 9,810 deaths from the COVID-19 condition.

The president of CONMEBOL Alejandro Domínguez and the president of the Colombian Football Federation Ramón Jesurún also participated in the virtual deliberation.

“Our goal is to strengthen the quality of our competitions, we have little time left and we need everyone’s commitment. We have the great challenge that is the first time that we are going to do (the Cup) in two countries. We are setting the bar very high and that is really motivating, « emphasized Domínguez.

The initial phase of the Cup will be played in two groups, one Argentina and the other in Colombia made up of six teams each.

Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay make up Group A, and Colombia, Brazil, Qatar, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru make up Group B.

The last Copa América was played last year and was won by host Brazil. It was to be held in consecutive years in order to adjust its schedule to coincide with the Euro Cup, which also ended up being postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.

CONMEBOL, the Federation and the government set a virtual deliberation schedule to follow the progress of the organization in each sub-venue.