This summer will be a watershed moment for our city and region when we play host to the largest multi-sport event in Canada’s history.
The 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games are more than just an opportunity to see some of the greatest athletes from the western hemisphere compete for gold, silver and bronze. They also represent a chance to reshape Toronto and southern Ontario’s tourist, sport, cultural and transportation infrastructure.
The July 10–26 Pan Am Games and Aug. 7–15 Parapan Am Games (for athletes with disabilities) will see us welcome 10,000 competitors, coaches and officials from the Caribbean and the Americas. The athletes will compete in 51 sports at more than 40 venues around the Golden Horseshoe.
But the organizers of the Toronto 2015 Games, along with the Ontario government and several municipalities, want to ensure the legacy of the Pan/Parapan Am Games is one that Ontarians can enjoy and share long after the closing ceremonies.
Sports venues have been revamped and updated to world-class status for everything from cycling and field hockey to mountain biking and rowing. They will allow athletes to hone their skills as they prepare to represent Canada for decades to come.
The Athletes Village in Toronto’s West Don Lands, near the waterfront, will find a new purpose after the Games as a mixed-use community, with affordable housing space and a YMCA facility. About 10 percent of the new housing units will be fully accessible for people with disabilities, and the community will be connected to the TTC on a new streetcar line.
The Pan/Parapan Am Games also provided the impetus to complete the Union-Pearson Express rail link ahead of schedule. As of June 6, travelers have been able to get from downtown Toronto to Pearson International Airport without having to worry about arranging for car transportation.
The Government of Ontario has invested $42 million to ensure all our citizens can share in the benefits of the Pan/Parapan Am Games through a celebration and legacy fund. This will help schoolchildren learn to keep fit and eat healthy, make sure our natural trails and sports fields stay in good condition and are open to everyone, and help disabled athletes find opportunities to compete and train.
I can’t wait to see our city come alive to welcome the world this summer. But more importantly, I’m proud that the flame of the Pan/Parapan Am Games will keep burning after the festivities end.