In the middle of an empty field on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, construction workers are hard at work erecting Canada’s first world-class indoor velodrome in one of the country’s fastest growing communities. This fall, Milton will become the new home of Canada’s cycling community, and the velodrome will be the first tenant in an ambitious new development for the town.
In Hamilton, a new stadium is rising on hallowed Canadian sporting ground as part of a neighbourhood revitalization plan, while in Scarborough the first new Olympic-sized pools constructed in the Greater Toronto Area in 30 years are nearing completion as part of a development benefitting a growing university campus, the surrounding community and elite Canadian athletes.
The common driver behind these projects: the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Sparking a massive – and once-in-a-lifetime – building effort in southern Ontario, the Games are also leaving a legacy of seven other new sport builds and 15 renovations, running the gamut from equestrian to track and field to field hockey. The investment: $730 million in infrastructure alone, which is the largest ever in Canadian amateur sport history.
Something of this magnitude has been a long time coming. It’s been 85 years since Hamilton created what would become the Commonwealth Games and almost 40 years since Toronto hosted the Paralympic Games.
In the summer of 2015, this region will host the largest international multi-sport Games ever held in Canada. The TORONTO 2015 Games are funded by all three levels of government, as well as university partners and the private sector, because they all share in the belief that sport is a positive force for change in our communities. Sport brings us together, keeps us healthy and active, teaches teamwork and perseverance – all values we want to foster in our young people.
In scale and scope, the “People’s Games” easily surpass the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the number of athletes (7,600+), competition venues (30+) and sports (51), not to mention the Games footprint, which encompasses 16 municipalities and approximately 5,300 square kilometres.
With a spectacular Cirque du Soleil-produced Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony beamed across the Americas to kick things off on July 10, the Games will reach more than 380 million households daily for more than two weeks on TVs and smartphones in four languages (French, Spanish, Portuguese and English), providing a showcase for Ontario in some of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Pan Am Games will be followed on August 7, 2015, with the opening of the Parapan Am Games – the largest ever and the first held in Canada – and will close on August 15, 2015.
The province of Ontario also estimates the Games will create more than 26,000 jobs, grow Ontario’s real GDP by $3.7 billion from 2009 to 2017, and attract a quarter of a million visitors.
There is also great potential to increase the province’s share of the $3.6 billion sports tourism industry in Canada. Currently, the Global Sports Nations Index ranks Canada as the number two sporting nation in the world when it comes to hosting major multi-sport Games and world championships. Starting this spring, more than 45 sport test events will take place in the region ahead of the Games, including national and international championships in our new venues. This is the perfect opportunity for Ontario to leverage its newfound capabilities to attract future events.
National teams have already decided to make these new venues their permanent homes. Along with cycling in Milton, Canadian wheelchair basketball and Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario are putting down roots at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House at the University of Toronto in Scarborough.
Another factor contributing to the success of these venues is their place in the communities they serve. From the get-go, they’ve been designed to serve dual purposes: as much-needed training centres for Canadian athletes and community recreational centres where Ontarians of all ages can lead healthy, active lives and come together to socialize. This legacy is built into them, not tacked on as an afterthought.
Underpinning these important sport and economic legacies are the intangible or social benefits the Games are creating in Ontario, from a cadre of more than 20,000 trained and passionate volunteers who can be called upon in the future, to more inclusive and welcoming communities, and more healthy and active citizens of all ages.
This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our communities and open new avenues for our young people, such as the four Grade 8 students in Markham who won a nationwide contest to design our mascot, PACHI the porcupine, and the young leaders who help guide us and serve as Games ambassadors in their communities as members of our Youth Advisory Council.
Not to mention the incredible Canadian athletes such as synchronized swimmer Clare McGovern, karate athlete Vanessa Restrepo and wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy, who are looking to make their mark on home soil in front of family and friends at the Games in 2015. Their enthusiasm and excitement is palpable and is extremely motivating for all of us involved.
In fact, Canadian athletes have promised to bring their A-game to these rare home Games. Both the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee are promising to send their biggest and best teams, with a lofty goal of finishing among the top nations in the medal count. Tickets to see these athletes in action will also be affordable, with 75 percent priced at $45 or less when they go on sale this fall.
Along with celebrating sport, the Games will also celebrate our culture. After all, one of the greatest strengths of the Greater Golden Horseshoe region is its cultural diversity. That diversity is reflected in our workforce, volunteers and our cultural programming.
Already, communities across the region are planning their own unique cultural activities to complement the sport competitions taking part in their midst. These are their Games and they’re taking ownership of them.
In Toronto, PANAMANIA, presented by CIBC, will feature talent from across Ontario, Canada and the Pan Americas. At the heart of this diverse multidisciplinary arts and cultural festival will be more than 25 unique commissioned works, including world premieres by Canadian luminaries such as Robert Lepage, Crystal Pite and Veronica Tennant and up-and-coming artists like 17-year-old spoken word artist Mustafa Ahmed. The projects, which span theatre, photography, dance, music, spoken word, fashion and visual arts, are sharing $1.5 million in seed funding from TO2015’s Innovation and New Creation Commission and Legacy Fund.
As sweeping as the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games will be, the glue holding all of it together will be our 20,000 volunteers. They will be behind every amazing moment, every lifelong memory experienced by our athletes and visitors. They will be the backbone, the ambassadors and the heart of the Games – they will represent the best of us. That’s why I encourage everyone to join us by signing up to volunteer today at TORONTO2015.org/volunteer. Our goal is to make these the best Pan Am/Parapan Am Games ever held.