By RON FANFAIR
Toronto has the facilities and requirements to host the summer Olympics, said Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) Evaluation Commission chair Dr. Julio Cesar Maglione last Monday afternoon at the end of a hectic two-day visit.
He and the rest of the Commission members made 18 stops during their 24-venue tour of existing and proposed facility sites in Niagara, Hamilton and Toronto.
“Your bid team put on an excellent presentation and all the criteria for hosting the Pan Am Games have been met,” Maglione said at a press conference at Rogers Centre, which will be the venue for the Games opening and closing ceremonies and the baseball tournament.
“You have all the requirements necessary to host a successful Games and even an Olympics…This is a beautiful city.”
Toronto made unsuccessful attempts to host the 1996 and 2008 Olympics.
Maglione, who is also an International Olympic Committee member and the president-elect of the International Swimming Federation, and his team visited key sites slated for the Pan Am and subsequent Parapan American Games and met with Bid and senior government officials and renowned athletes.
The Commission visited athletic and sports medicine facilities at McMaster University’s David Bradley Centre before being given an aerial view by helicopter of the Niagara region water courses where rowing, sailing and open water swims would take place. They also toured Roy Thompson Hall where weightlifting will be held, BMO Field that will host soccer, the Direct Energy Centre which is the site of handball, the Air Canada Centre where basketball will be played and the Ricoh Coliseum which will stage the gymnastics events.
Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman gave the Commission a tour and preview of the proposed Athletes Village that will accommodate nearly 8,500 competitors. After the Games, the village will become part of a new community of high quality affordable housing and market-priced units already planned for the West Don Lands.
“Not only will this be an ideal home base for the athletes of the 2015 Games, but we think it will become one of the most exciting new neighbourhoods in Toronto,” said Smitherman.
Canadian Olympic Association president Michael Chambers and Toronto 2015 Bid chair David Peterson joined Maglione at the press briefing.
“I think we showed off this city and the province to its very best,” said Peterson. “I am very proud of what we have to offer. We have some wonderful assets and I think my friends from South America and the Caribbean understand that and we are hoping that they go home with a very favourable view.”
The other Commission members were Alphonso Bridgewater (St. Kitts & Nevis), Danilo Drouet (Ecuador), Felipe Kapermas (Mexico) and Ramon Zubizarreta (Paraguay). They are all presidents of their national Olympic associations.
The Commission, which also visited the other bid cities, Lima, Peru and Bogotá, Colombia before coming to Toronto, will report back to PASO on key elements of the Toronto bid.
The PASO 42 members will vote to award the Games on November 5 during its annual general assembly in Guadalajara, Mexico.