Pan Am Games opening ceremony tonight in Toronto
Cirque du Soleil keeps details of opening ceremony show a secret
The athletes are ready. The colourful cauldron has been revealed. And Friday night's sold-out opening ceremony promises to get the TO2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games started with a bang.
The Games, which run until July 26, mark a "special day" for the city, Mayor John Tory said.
"The world is watching," Tory told CBC Radio's Metro Morning during a live broadcast outside of Union Station, one of the many Toronto landmarks that have been upgraded in advance of the Games.
When Tory was asked why the city needs a mega-event such as the Games to work itself into its best shape, he was quick to laugh.
The athletes are getting excited, too. Mark Oldershaw, a sprint canoeist who will carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony, said it will be an "incredible honour" to lead the country's team into the stadium.
"I can't wait to wave that flag proudly," Oldershaw said.
More than 10,000 athletes and officials from 41 countries are in Toronto for the Games. They include more than 700 of Canada's top athletes, making this the largest sporting event ever held in the country.
But despite the magnitude of the Games, buzz has been slow to build in the city, and many have complained about issues such as traffic congestion caused by new HOV lane regulations rolled out to get athletes around the Greater Toronto Area.
"It's not the Olympics," said Joseph Cassar, a 65-year-old retired Toronto businessman. "I just hope the city makes a profit.
"I hope it puts Toronto on the map a bit. It's just the traffic I'm worried about."
Games organizers hope the opening ceremony at the Pan Am Dome (Rogers Centre) will make people forget about a lot of that.
"Once the Games start, you can see all the positives wash out the negatives," said Pan Am Games chairman David Peterson.
"The city's going to come alive after the opening ceremony," said TO2015 CEO Saad Rafi.
"We can hardly wait to get going … today is a great day," Rafi said.
Cirque du Soleil will use 625 performers during its massive show, the details of which have been a closely guarded secret other than it will combine art, sport and culture. There will also be a pyrotechnic show, which will include the CN Tower, which was lit up by smoke and fireworks during a dress rehearsal on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, there are several road closures to be aware of Friday, including many near the Pan Am Dome.
CBC will broadcast the opening ceremony on television and online, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
Front Street Toronto closed. Gates going up. Pan Am Games' Opening Ceremony a few hours away! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcpanam?src=hash">#cbcpanam</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcsports?src=hash">#cbcsports</a> <a href="http://t.co/9MtH3ohFqE">pic.twitter.com/9MtH3ohFqE</a>—@CBCMarie
With files from Reuters