By RON FANFAIR
Barbados is supporting Toronto’s bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games and its Olympic Association president, Steve Stoute, who is also the head of the Caribbean National Olympic Committee (CANOC), expects the 26-member regional bloc to back this city’s attempt to bring a major multi-sport Games to Ontario for the first time since 1930.
Each of the Pan American Sports Organization’s (PASO) 42 members has a vote. But those countries, including Canada that has hosted previous Games, get an additional vote for 52 in all.
The vote for the 2015 Games takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico – the hosts for the 2011 Games – in early November. Toronto; Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia are bidding to host the 17th quadrennial Games.
Stoute and Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) secretary general Erskine Simmons discussed the concept of the Toronto bid with local officials and visited some of the proposed Games venues and facilities last week.
“Canada has had a long and healthy relationship with Barbados and several Caribbean countries and there are a number of programs and projects that the BOA is working with Commonwealth Games Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee to assist us with Olympic sport in Barbados,” said Stoute.
“Canada has assisted the region in many other areas and it’s from this perspective that I feel CANOC members should support Toronto’s bid.”
The BOA and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding last May that provides a framework for strengthening the sports relationship between Canada and Barbados as well as co-operation in the fields of physical fitness and development of excellence in sports.
Both national organizations have pledged to develop stronger partnerships between sport federations of Canada and Barbados with athlete development being key focus area. This includes the free exchange of coaches, officials, trainers, judges, experts and scientists for participation in seminars, courses and counseling.
“The MOU emerged from a Barbados executive board decision to approach the COC,” said Simmons. “They were quite receptive to the idea and we think it will go a long way in developing our sport in Barbados.”
Canada has hosted the Games twice, both occasions in Winnipeg in 1967 and 1999 which was the last time the Games were held in North America. Santo Domingo and Rio hosted the last two events.
Stoute, who has been the BOA president since 1996, said it’s time for the Games to return to this part of the hemisphere.
“I am somewhat prejudicial coming from an English-speaking country and we would very much like to see the Games come back to an English-speaking destination,” said Stoute. “Apart from that, Toronto’s infrastructure, diversity, security and excellent facilities along with its accessibility, make it very attractive. There are direct flights between Barbados and other Caribbean countries to Toronto. To get to Lima or Bogota from the Caribbean, you have to make a connection in Miami. I see no reason why we should not support Toronto.”
As part of its bid, Toronto has promised to provide extensive television coverage of the Games. No major U.S. network has covered the last three editions of the Games and North American newspaper coverage has been very limited.
“Very little of what happens at the Pan Am Games is broadcast in the Caribbean,” said Stoute, who is a past president of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean. “The Toronto bid group has pledged that they would make a TV feed available to regional stations so that Caribbean people can watch the Games. That is a very important element.”
Stoute downplayed suggestions that the Pan American Games are not as significant as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
“From the continent’s perspective, they are the number one games with countries like Canada, the United States, Cuba and Mexico taking part,” he said. The standard of competition is second only to the Olympic Games with nearly 8,000 competitions participating in 32 sports. It’s a major Games on the world scene.
“It’s also becoming more difficult to take part in the Olympics so regional Games like the Pan Am’s give young people who are unable to qualify for the Olympics, an opportunity to compete in a multi-sport environment with athletes from across the continent.”
Canada is third in Pan Am Games medal haul with 1,577 behind the United States with 3,916 and Cuba with 1,793.
The PASO five-member Evaluation Commission will be in Toronto on August 30 and 31 to meet with the city’s 2015 Bid team and visit proposed Games venues and facilities. They will assess key elements of the bid and report back to PASO which manages the Games and whose member nations vote to award hosting rights.