Cautious optimism as Pan Am Games decision nears

By RON FANFAIR

Sometime around 6 p.m. tomorrow evening, Toronto will know if it has won the right to host the 2015 Pan Am Games and the first major international multi-sport event in this area since the 1930 British Empire Games which is now the Commonwealth Games.

Toronto is bidding against Lima, Peru, which has never hosted a multi-sport global event and Bogota, Colombia. Cali, which is Colombia’s third largest city, hosted the 1971 Pan American Games.

Toronto will make its presentation after Bogota and Lima at the conclusion of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) general assembly in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“We go just before the lunch break,” said bid vice-chair Joe Halstead. “They will listen to us and then head off for the two-hour break. The delegates will reconvene at 3 p.m. and deliberate for a few hours before announcing their choice. We are pretty comfortable with being last. We will be judged on our presentation and not where we are placed to make our pitch.”

Halstead is among 10 bid executives, senior government and Canadian Olympic officials and athletes that will attempt to persuade the 52 voting delegates, through auditory and visual presentations, to pick this city ahead of the Latin American contenders.

Chair David Peterson will address the bid specifics, vice-chairs Halstead and Scotiabank vice-president Anatol von Hahn will speak about the city’s characteristics and ethnicity and its economic strength and banking community respectively, president and chief operating officer Jagoda Pike will focus on the venues and Games plan and Premier Dalton McGuinty’s comments will be directed to the province’s support for the Games.

Queen’s Park has guaranteed to cover any shortfalls in the $1.4 billion bid.

Mayor David Miller, federal Sports Minister Gary Lunn and five-time Olympian and Canada’s flag-bearer at the 1996 Atlanta Games Charmaine Crooks will also address the voting delegates.

Halstead and several senior bid members have been in Guadalajara since Monday.

“We came early to get acquainted with the surroundings and be very prepared to make our best pitch tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow, we are going to be in front of the world and this is where we have to be at our best. Getting here early also gives us a chance to see what we want to do and also go through our routine.

“Delegates also arrive early, so we want to know from them if there is any advice they might have for us, and for those who are our friends, we will engage them in one-on-one dialogue to get a sense from them what they think we ought to be doing and what they think we should not be doing.”

Halstead dismissed suggestions that Toronto has the full support of the Caribbean voting members. While on a visit to this city last summer, Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees chairman and Barbados Olympic Association president Steve Stoute said he expected the 26-member regional bloc to back this city’s attempt to secure the Pam Am Games.

“It would be unwise for us to think we have the support of all the Caribbean countries,” said Halstead. “Practically speaking, I don’t think they will all vote for us. It’s however fair to say that the majority will be in our corner. This means we will have to secure some Central American votes. We have targeted those countries who we feel we could get their support and those we think we need to work on.”

An integral part of Toronto bid groups that unsuccessfully challenged for the 1996 and 2008 Olympics and the 1999 Pan Am Games that went to Winnipeg, Halstead said he’s confident that this city will land the Pan Am Games in light of the voting unpredictability.

“One of the things I have learned is that you cannot count your chickens before they hatch,” he said. “Nobody could have told me that Chicago would go out in the first round of voting for the 2016 Olympics, but they did. You really never know. There are loyalties to other countries, of course, but that’s not because they don’t like us.

“While we were in Copenhagen for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congress last month, we met many of the Pan Am delegates who were also IOC delegates. There was also a meeting of worldwide National Olympic Committees (NOC) that attracted NOC members who may not have been IOC members. That was a nice opportunity for us to press home our message. We believe that went very well for us.

“The best opportunity, however, was in Delhi which hosted the Commonwealth Games federation meeting a few days later. There were 14 delegates there who were PASO members. Our competitors were not at that meeting, so we got a chance to really zero in on the delegates for four days without worrying about the competition. That was great for us.”

Ontario’s Health Minister Margarett Best is among the 40-member Toronto bid delegation that’s in Mexico.

 

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