By RON FANFAIR
Canada’s most populous and diverse city has landed its first international multi-sport event in almost 80 years.
The Greater Toronto Area secured the right to stage the 2015 Pan Am Games, winning 33 of the 52 votes on the first ballot last Friday at the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) general assembly in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the 2011 Pan Am Games will be held.
Contenders Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia received 11 and seven votes respectively. There was one spoiled ballot.
The Peruvian government did not fully support the bid while a change in leadership in the Colombian Olympic Committee presidency last June definitely hurt the chances of the Games returning to the South American country for a second time after Cali in 1971. Baltazar Medino replaced International Olympic Committee member Andres Botero who was considered the face of the Bogotá bid among PASO members.
Regardless, Canada’s three levels of government were firmly behind Toronto’s bid whose strengths as a city that offers cultural richness and diversity that ensures a welcoming and lively environment for athletes, officials and spectators obviously resonated with the voting members, including the Caribbean region which almost overwhelmingly threw its support behind Toronto.
Guyana Olympic Association general secretary, Ivor O’Brien, who attended the PASO general assembly, said his country supported Toronto from the outset.
“It was hard not to support Toronto because it had the best bid and that was proven in its presentation,” he told Share.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent said he was confident that Toronto was going to secure the Games.
“As I travelled around the Americas presenting some of the bid books, I was impressed by the reception we got from the various Olympic committees and their feelings that Toronto had the best bid on the ground,” he said at a celebratory reception last Friday night.
“Politicians, as you know, sometimes have a corrupting influence on this and there were some concerns. Congrats to Bogota and Lima who had good bids and fought cleanly, but this victory is ours.”
Bid vice-chair Joe Halstead admitted that the final outcome exceeded his expectations.
“The 33 votes we got on the first ballot were more than some of us thought we would get,” he said. “Lima stepped up its game and I thought we would have been neck and neck with Bogota. In the end, it all went better than I thought and we are extremely happy that we won the Games.”
Ontario’s Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best, whose portfolio includes Sport, said the province is deeply honoured to be chosen to host the Pan Am Games.
“This will give us an opportunity to invest in sports facilities that will benefit everyone in the long run and create opportunities for people in Ontario,” said Best.
The West Don Lands will be converted into the Games Village that will include sports facilities and retail space. After the Games, the village is expected to become part of a mixed new community of high quality affordable housing and market-priced units.
The Toronto Pan Am Bid Committee will be dissolved in the next few weeks while a chair and board members to prepare for hosting the Games will be put in place. The board will select the chief executive officer.