Excitement mingled with some concerns
Toronto highways are clogged, tickets sales have only just passed the halfway mark and hotels are reporting fewer bookings than expected.
Ready or not, the Pan Am Games are here.
Six years after Toronto made its winning bid to host the Games, the city is rolling out the welcome mat for 10,000 athletes and officials from 41 countries in the largest international multisport event ever held in Canada. With 36 sports and hordes of participants, the Games eclipse even the Olympic Games the country has hosted.
Canadian athletes have raved about the thrill of competing on home soil and government officials have applauded what they consider a chance to show off what the country has to offer, as well as what they deem an important legacy in infrastructure.
But the road to the Games hasn’t been entirely smooth, and even now, with the opening ceremony set for Friday, excitement for the event is mingled with concerns over traffic and expenses.
Saad Rafi, CEO of the TO2015 organizing committee, said he believes Canadians will come out feeling “very proud of what’s been done here.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to get a real sense of what (the Games) have to offer because there is so much available in this region,” he said.
“But I think when people start seeing Canadian athletes on the top of the podium, when they start seeing Nathan Phillips Square fireworks every night with fantastic artists, Pan Am Park, and so on and so on, just as we saw in the Vancouver Olympics, they’re going to flood back and flood into the city and the region.”
Congestion is top of mind for many residents — including the city’s former mayor, Rob Ford, who has complained publicly about traffic-reduction measures in place for the Games.
Spending for the Games has also come under scrutiny after complaints over executive expenses and the discovery of a second budget for the event.
The province said in 2013 that the original $1.44-billion budget didn’t include the $700-million cost of building the athletes’ village or $10 million for the provincial Pan Am secretariat.