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.

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