PanAm 2015 will be largest multi-sport event ever in C’da. Toronto ‘well ahead’ with preparations for games – JOA head
Those who say the Pan American Games are irrelevant, should think again.
That simple message was delivered by longstanding Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president, Michael Fennell, who was in Toronto last week for the Pan American Sports Organization’s (PASO) general assembly.
While these regional championships might not be seen as significant for the world’s elite athletes whose priorities are the Olympics, World Championships and – in the case of track and field – the Diamond League that offers diamonds and cash, the PanAm Game are really important.
Fennell, a PASO executive committee honorary member and Commonwealth Games Federation past president, was very clear in his pronouncements.
“Outside of the Olympics, the Pan Am Games is the biggest sports celebration in our region,” he said. “We have 41 National Olympic Committees that will bring in athletes in 28 Olympic and eight Pan Am sports to these Games. Where we have to do better is promote its value to the public, particularly, in this case, to the people of Ontario and other parts of Canada and let them know a major sports event is coming here. The Caribbean and the Americas are a huge part of the Olympic movement and there are almost 6,000 athletes that will be taking part in the 2015 Pan Am Games. That’s significant.”
The JOA president since 1977, Fennell said that regional Games like the Pan Am provide young people who are unable to qualify for the Olympics with an opportunity to compete in a multi-sport environment with other athletes from across the continent.
No major American network has covered the last three editions of the Games and North American newspaper and TV coverage have been limited. As part of its bid, Toronto pledged to provide extensive Games coverage, including a TV feed to Caribbean networks.
With more athletes and sports than the 2010 Vancouver Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games will be the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in Canada.
Nearly 7,600 Pan Am and Parapan athletes from 41 countries will compete in 36 sports, including women’s baseball, golf and canoe/kayak slalom which will debut in this city.
With the Games just 21 months away, Fennell said most of the facilities are ahead of schedule.
“Compared with previous host cities, Toronto is well ahead with plans and preparations,” he said. “The venues, which are the physical structures, are well advanced. What is not generally known is that a venue by itself is not Games-ready until the overlay is installed. That is the special installations that are required for the various competitions. Those are more advanced than for Games in the past. I am quite happy with how things are coming along. The planning started obviously with a good team of people working on that phase.”
Work on the Pan Am field hockey centre and the Parapan Am soccer stadium at the University of Toronto St. George’s campus and the athletes’ village at the West Donlands site is halfway complete while construction is well underway at Hamilton’s Pan Am Soccer Stadium, the Milton cycling velodrome, Caledon’s equestrian park, the flatwater centre in Welland and the Etobicoke Olympium that will be a training facility for swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming leading up to the Pan Am Games and serve as a practice facility during the event.
A Canadian city has hosted the Games twice, both occasions in Winnipeg in1967 and 1999 which was the last time they were held in North America. Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Guadalajara in Mexico were the last three hosts.
“It’s nice to be back in a region that has close ties with the Caribbean and also one in which there is a large West Indian population,” said 78-year-old Fennell who chairs the 11-member PASO technical commission and was a silver medallist in water polo at the 1958 and 1962 Central American & Caribbean Games.
Chicago (1959) and Indianapolis (1987) are the only other English-speaking cities to host the quadrennial Games since its inception in 1951.
The 2015 Games, which will be held in in 32 venues across the Golden Horseshoe and Greater Toronto Area regions, take place from July 10-26. The Parapan Games will run from August 7-14.
This will be the first time that a multi-sport event will be held in this province since the first official Commonwealth Games in Hamilton in 1930.
The delegates attending last week’s PASO general assembly selected Lima, Peru’s capital and largest city, to host the 2019 Games. With 31 votes, the first-time host easily defeated Santiago, Chile and La Punta, Argentina which secured nine votes each and Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela which garnered eight.
Luis Urzua, the shift commander at the time of the 2010 Chilean mining accident, came to Toronto to boost Santiago’s bid.