Pan Am Games deserve your attention
Athletes excited to compete at home
Now that 2015 has officially arrived, it's time to take the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games to be held in Toronto this summer seriously.
The facts are becoming impossible to ignore.
With a total of 7,600 athletes from 41 nations comprising the Americas and Caribbean, competing in 51 sports at more than 30 venues in 17 southern Ontario municipalities, TO2015 constitutes the largest multisport event ever held in Canada. If sheer size is the determining factor they will arguably be the largest event the country has ever undertaken.
Bigger than Winter Olympics
No festival, sporting, cultural or otherwise comes close to what will unfold in the Golden Horseshoe in less than 200 days. As a measuring stick, these Games have an infrastructure budget of $674 million and contribute 10 brand new, state-of-the-art venues to Canada's sporting landscape while substantially upgrading 15 others.
They are roughly twice the size of the Winter Olympics, which took over Vancouver in 2010.
There is a new Aquatics Centre and Field House in Scarborough, which is substantially more sophisticated than the facility employed by London 2012 at the last Summer Olympics. In Milton, just west of Toronto, a new cycling velodrome is open for business and is the only one of its kind in the country. The Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park is almost sold out after an early ticket push.
TO2015 will be the third largest multisport event in the World, being eclipsed by only a summer Olympics or Asian Summer Games.
But the impact TO2015 goes beyond facilities and resources.
Crowd will boost Canadian athletes
It has been a generation since Canadian summer sport athletes have had the opportunity to compete on home soil before supportive crowds at an event of this magnitude.
"Multisport Games can introduce different sports to a broader audience," says Curt Harnett an Olympic cycling medalist who is Canada's Chef de Mission for TO2015. "As a result someone may witness an unexpected, and thus, more long-lasting connection to the moment, as it can be more dramatic, more emotional and more profound because the viewer isn't blinded with assumption."
The Canadian athletes agree that playing at home at an event this big, for the first time in their lives, will substantially improve their performances.
"The thought of having the chance to create memories in front of a home crowd that is fully supporting you is exhilarating, says hurdler Phylicia George of Markham, Ont.
"Ever since I competed at the Olympic Games and I heard the crowd cheer for the British athletes, I've wanted to feel that excitement of hearing the crowd's eruption once my name was said. Pan Am Games will finally provide me with that opportunity."
Trampoline star Rosie MacLennan of King City, Ont., is Canada's only gold medallist from the London Olympics. While she has received recognition for her massive achievement overseas, she believes the appreciation of what she does will be magnified at home.
"I'm excited to share my passion for the sport with those who come to watch," Maclennan stresses. "To have them see first-hand how high we jump, how fast we flip and how exciting our sport can be."
Toronto's Martha McCabe, a world championship medallist in swimming, points out another, culminating advantage of a home Games.
"Often we race overseas and it's not until a week or two later when we get home that we hear people say they saw us race and how they felt. By that time it is less of a shared experience," she says. "But representing Canada in my hometown would be amazing because I would get to share my experience with everyone who has helped me get to where I am in sport. We would be able to share the moment and experience together."
"I think there is an inspirational effect," George concludes. "Sometimes actually seeing someone from your city compete at a high level could be all you need to truly believe you can do it."
TO2015 has the opportunity to be much more than a collection of facts and figures and the resulting economic spinoff.
This anticipated spectacle deserves to be taking seriously now because it has the very real chance to deliver a connection to, an appreciation for, and a shared celebration of, an entire generation of Canadian sporting ambition and excellence.
And it will happen on the fields of play close to home.