On a cold, grey Sunday afternoon last November, about 2,500 residents and representatives of local sport organizations lined up outside the Atos Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre in Unionville, Ontario, for the official opening of a new community recreation facility and one of the signature venues for next summer’s Games.
The new facility is a boon for both high-performance sport and community programming, boasting a fitness centre, a 3,345-square metre gymnasium space and a 50-metre, 10-lane Olympic-sized swimming pool, the first of its kind in York Region. Together with the Toronto Aquatics Centre and Field House in Scarborough, the venues represent a big leap forward in international-level sport facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Markham facility will host several events as part of this year’s Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, including badminton, table tennis, water polo and table tennis (Parapan).
To celebrate the inauguration, badminton champion and Unionville resident Michelle Li was on hand to greet the capacity crowd. Four students from Markham’s Buttonville Public School, who won the design competition for a Games mascot, were also there. And when the new pool’s moveable floor was raised and representatives from all three levels of government walked on the surface of the water together, the moment showcased the facility’s cutting-edge features and the central role they will play not only for the 2015 Games, but for the future of sport in the region.
Ontario is indeed poised to host the largest international multi-sport event in Canadian history. Next July and August, the province will welcome more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and delegates from 41 nations across the Americas and the Caribbean, dwarfing both the Vancouver 2010 and Montreal 1976 Olympics.
They’ll compete in front of an estimated 250,000 visitors at more than 30 venues located in 16 municipalities that cover a large footprint across Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe as far south as Welland and as far north as Minden.
Up to 18 Pan Am Games events and all Parapan Am Games events will be qualifying competitions for the Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, meaning spectators can expect to see world-class athletes in just a few months.
The scale of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is immense but the legacy will be greater still. The investments in sports and recreation infrastructure as well as in athlete development and educational resources will ensure tangible benefits for decades to come. And the benefits reach well beyond the Greater Toronto Area, such as the expansion and enhancement of the network of recreational trails throughout the province. During the Games, no fewer than 23,000 volunteers – who are now being recruited and trained – will be ready to welcome the province’s guests and act as their guides. They will be the face of the Games just as surely as the athletes will be.
Perhaps most significantly, the Games will be delivering world-class athletic competitions at less than a world-class price, and in a festival atmosphere accessible to all. About three-quarters of all tickets are priced at $45 or less.
Accessibility for those with disabilities has been a priority in almost every aspect of the Games’ planning and development, from transportation to large-scale broadcasting of the Parapan Am Games to the training of volunteers. And numerous celebration zones highlighting the culture and cuisine of Canada and other participating nations will ensure that the Pan Am and Parapan Am spirit is about more than the competitions themselves.
With just months of preparation remaining before the opening ceremonies on July 10, anticipation is growing. Visit www.ontario.ca/games2015 to learn more about the Games.
For more on the Pan An/Parapan Am Games, see Delivering Panamania.