There was no mistaking the elephant in the room at this week's Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) General Assembly in sunny Puerto Vallarta: it was the elephant not in the room.
Mario Vázquez Raña, the 82 year-old Mexican newspaper magnate, has presided over PASO since 1975, the year of Margaret Thatcher's election as leader of Britain's Conservative party and the fall of Saigon.
He has marked the body with an indelible stamp: scarcely 10 minutes went by in and around this week's meetings without someone commenting, publicly or privately, on Don Mario's negotiating skills, business acumen, generosity or autocratic management style.
But the last few months are forcing PASO to face up to the fact that a remarkable era is nearly over.
First, last September, this Puerto Vallarta General Assembly was postponed after Vázquez Raña underwent surgery; then in November he missed a PASO Extraordinary General Assembly in Bangkok; and now this week, having been hospitalised for six days in mid-December, he was unable to make it to Mexico's palm-fringed Pacific coast.
Happily, PASO's most pressing current concern - the 2015 Toronto Pan American and Parapan American Games - looks to be in good shape; and the vastly experienced, not easily impressed eye of Michael Fennell, President of the PASO Technical Committee, is available to make sure it stays that way.
But it seems inevitable that there will now follow a (potentially lengthy) period when nothing more strategic than the succession issue will be at the forefront of many PASO members' minds.
Mario Vázquez Raña has presided over PASO for almost 40 years but the last few months are forcing PASO to face up to the fact that a remarkable era is nearly over PASO
First vice-president Ivar Sisniega, who chaired the General Assembly after learning just two days before the event that Vázquez Raña would be absent, may have been justified to say that he was "gratified to see the level of mature and serious debate that took place in a very responsible fashion".
It is hard to imagine, though, that the agenda would have been wrapped up inside a day (albeit quite an intensive one) had Vázquez Raña been in the hot seat.
And with so many major international events, including an Olympics and a Youth Olympics, coming to the Americas from this year onwards, it would be highly preferable if the long-term leadership question were not left hanging for too long.
Nobody, at least that I met, expects Vázquez Raña to remain as President beyond 2016.
But the date of that General Assembly is not yet known - and given that what was to have been the 2014 Assembly did not take place until January 2015, that could leave the Mexican in situ for up to another two years.
Equally, the transition may come considerably earlier than that.
An Executive Committee meeting set for March was announced with the comment, "At that time, decisions will be made for the future leadership of our organisation".
I was subsequently advised, however, that this was a reference to a statute review process that is currently in train, rather than anything more dramatic.
Carlos Nuzman, President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the man at the helm of Rio 2016, is a leading candidate for the succession of PASO Getty Images
This may itself have an important bearing on the outcome of a future Presidential election, since it may lead to a change in voting entitlements.
At present, as it was explained to me, each of the 41 PASO National Olympic Committees (NOCs) has a vote, and an extra vote is granted for each time a country has hosted the Pan American Games.
This, of course, increases the voting power of larger nations, particularly Mexico, which has hosted on three occasions.
Should the system revert to a straight one country one vote, the influence of the Caribbean members in particular would be increased, especially if they were to vote en bloc.
Based largely on my attempted straw poll around the wide, airy corridors of the conference hotel, I would say that the leading candidates for the succession seem to be as follows:
Carlos Nuzman, PASO's second vice president, from Brazil; Sisniega, another Mexican; and José Joaquín Puello from the Dominican Republic.
It is very possible that another Caribbean candidate may also emerge, with Keith Joseph, PASO's third vice president, from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Richard Peterkin, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from Saint Lucia, those most frequently mentioned in this connection.
Conceivable dark horses include José Quiñones, if he can overcome his domestic difficulties in Peru, any US or Canadian candidate, and perhaps others.
Neither Nuzman, 72, or Puello, 74, are spring chickens exactly; Nuzman, moreover, will presumably have his hands full until Rio 2016 has come and gone.
But it could be argued that a transition candidate may be in PASO's best interests, while the body transforms itself from a creature, essentially, of a single individual into something much more modern and transparent.
An interesting presence in Puerto Vallarta was Pere Miró, IOC director of relations with NOCs and Olympic Solidarity Getty Images
An interesting presence here in Puerto Vallarta was Pere Miró, IOC director of relations with NOCs and Olympic Solidarity, who acknowledged it was his first PASO General Assembly since Vázquez Raña resigned as President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and head of Olympic Solidarity in March 2012.
This seemed a signal that the first rays of light on PASO's new era are just starting to creep over the horizon.
While the immediate future for PASO looks uncertain in many ways, one thing I would not be worried about, based on what I have seen here, is the organisation's ability to make a success of the post Vázquez Raña era.
The body seems to have an excellent multicultural balance, notwithstanding a big wealth gap between its richest and poorest NOCs; it is also imbued with plenty of men - and women - who have already shown themselves to be able sports administrators, with skills in a variety of areas.
I have little doubt, for example, that the more media savvy could quickly engineer a profile boost for the Pan American Games - and for that matter PASO itself - if given a freer rein.
They have plainly waited a long time, some of them, for additional responsibilities to be thrust upon them.
For a few, opportunity will shortly knock.
David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 World Cup and London 2012. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed here.