Pan Am Games opening ceremony tonight in Toronto

The athletes are ready. The colourful cauldron has been revealed. And Friday night’s sold-out opening ceremony promises to get the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games going with a bang.

Cirque du Soleil keeps details of opening ceremony show a secret

The pinecone-shaped cauldron of the TO2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games was revealed outside the Pan Am Dome on Friday ahead of the opening ceremony. 1:29

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.

"When your mom comes to visit, don't you clean your house up?" 
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      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. 

      Pan Am signage adorns Nathan Phillips Square, one of the celebration venues for the TO2015 Games. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)
      He said organizers are happy with ticket sales — recent estimates are around 800,000 of some 1.2 million sold — and thinks the cultural programming around the Games will also help build excitement around the city, even among those who don't like sports. 

      "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.

      With files from Reuters

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