Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games organizers have received the thumbs up from the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) hierarchy.
President Steve Stoute and secretary general Erskine Simmons visited some of the facilities while in the city last weekend for the Barbados Ball Canada Aid (BBCA) gala which was held last Saturday in Brampton.
The BOA and Paralympic Association of Barbados will benefit from BBCA funding to prepare for the quadrennial Games in the city next summer.
“I went to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus which will host aquatics, fencing and modern pentathlon, the athletes’ village and the Rogers Centre where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held,” said Stoute. “These facilities are all world-class as could be expected from a cosmopolitan city that’s in a position to consider bidding for an Olympic Games if it wants to.
“The organizing committee in Toronto, to my mind, has done an excellent job in ensuring the athletes and officials who come here will have a wonderful Games experience. I have been coming to Canada since 1998 and Toronto is always the first stop if we are going to other parts of the country which one can easily fall in love with. Canada is clean and beautiful, it has diversity and the people, for the most part, are extremely welcoming. So I am not surprised that Toronto seems set and ready to be a perfect host for the rest of the world.”
Stoute, who managed the Barbados teams that participated in the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis, the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria and the 1988 and 1992 Olympics in Seoul and Barcelona respectively, is counting on the support of nationals in Canada at the Toronto Pan Am Games.
“I fully expect that our nationals here will come out in large numbers and cheer for the Bajan athletes,” he said. “We don’t expect the same kind of support like let’s say the Jamaicans will get from their significant amount of nationals in this city. Nevertheless, our people are passionate when it comes to sport and I hope they will show up in a big way and make our athletes feel comfortable and at home.”
Stoute said the size of the Barbadian contingent will be determined by performances at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow from July 23 to August 3 and the inaugural Pan Am Sports Festival which takes place in Mexico City from July to September this year.
Originally proposed by long-serving Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) president Mario Vasquez Rana and approved at the PASO assembly in Toronto last October, the festival features 23 different sports and will bring together athletes and coaches for competitions, training camps and coaching clinics.
Bowling, canoe slalom, canoe sprint, cycling, wrestling, modern pentathlon, racquetball, rowing, squash table tennis, archery and triathlon competitions will serve as qualifiers for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“I would say we are looking at a contingent of about 60,” said Stoute. “We are hoping to have at least one team sport and that could be men’s hockey. For the first time, a rugby team comprising mainly British residents of Barbadian heritage will represent our country in rugby at the Commonwealth games. We will have to see how they do.”
Barbados supported the Toronto 2015 bid and the BOA and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding five years ago 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 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 counselling.
Last month, two Canadian coaches conducted workshops over three days covering various sports.
“It took in a wide range of disciplines and it was very successful,” said Simmons.