Toronto marks 2-year countdown to Pan Am Games

Pan Am organizers are marking the two-year countdown to the 2015 Games in a series of kickoff events today that CBC Toronto will cover with a special broadcast from Markham.

CBC News Toronto to host special show tonight from Markham

Pan Am organizers are marking the two-year countdown to the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in a series of kickoff events today that CBC Toronto will cover with a special live broadcast from Markham.

The two-year countdown includes celebrations in communities from across the Golden Horseshoe slated to host Pan Am Games events.

Each participating community — from Hamilton to Oshawa — is hosting a different event as part of Wednesday's celebrations. At many of the events, Canadian athletes are on hand to entertain the crowds and hold skills workshops in the 36 Pan Am sports including volleyball, soccer and badminton.

"Organizers are talking about the legacy that many of the venues will leave behind for athletes to come," reported CBC's Steven D'Souza on Wednesday.

As official broadcaster for the Games, CBC is playing a big part in Wednesday's celebrations.

Anne-Marie Mediwake will host CBC News Toronto's Wednesday show live from the Markham Civic Centre. The show begins at 5 p.m.

Joining Mediwake in Markham from the CBC team will be Scott Russell of CBC Sports Weekend.

Sun Jian Fei, a professional table tennis player and former Chinese national team member, will entertain the crowds in Markham with his skills.

At midday in downtown Toronto, Olympic silver medallist Jason Burnett performed his trampoline routine while top Ontario BMX riders did aerial tricks on a closed-off section of Commerce Court on King Street.

"Today is about bringing the excitement of the Toronto 2015 Games to all corners of the Greater Golden Horseshoe," said Ian Troop, chief executive officer of the Games organizing community. 

"Each community has put their own unique stamp on their event today, highlighting the sports they’re hosting and celebrating the features and talents of their hometowns they’re most proud of," he added. "This is just the beginning of what the region will look like two years from today when we join together to stage the largest international multi-sport Games ever held in Canada."

Downtown event draws crowds

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Bal Gosal (Minister of State for sport), Michael Chan (Ontario minister responsible for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games), all spoke at Wednesday's afternoon event in downtown Toronto. All spoke about the excitement building as the Games draw near.

"In two years, Ontario will host the world as we come together and showcase youth, diversity and athletic excellence in our province," said Chan.

"We’ll show everyone why Toronto is one of the best places to work play and live," said Ford. 

In each of the 10 communities taking part in Wednesday's event, special murals, created by sports artist David Arrigo through were officially unveiled.

The Games are expected to bring 10,000 athletes and officials to Toronto from 41 countries and involve about 20,000 volunteers.