Olympic fever

As Pan Am Games end in Toronto, ex­cite­ment fu­els push for Olympics Games bid

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAOLA LORIG­GIO

As Pan Am Games end in Toronto, ex­cite­ment fu­els push for Olympics Games bid

First came apa­thy, then dread. But by the time the Pan Amer­i­can Games wrapped up Sun­day, Toronto had been won over by the ex­cite­ment of the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion with some call­ing for the city to make a pitch for the Olympics.

Cheer­ing fans packed the stands over the 16 days of com­pe­ti­tion, Cana­dian ath­letes reached new heights on home soil, and wide­spread fears that the city would grind to a stand­still never fully ma­te­ri­al­ized.

In the months lead­ing up to the Games, crit­ics had raised con­cerns over con­ges­tion and spend­ing, and ques­tioned whether res­i­dents would em­brace the largest multi-sport com­pe­ti­tion ever held on Cana­dian soil.

A story in the New York Times even chided Toronto for its luke­warm re­cep­tion.

A few bumps early on — a case of chick­en­pox in the Mex­i­can del­e­ga­tion, de­fec­tions from the Cuban camp, and trans­porta­tion de­lays for com­muters and me­dia — faded as en­thu­si­asm for the Games spiked along with Canada’s medal count.

With only a few hours of com­pe­ti­tion left, Cana­dian ath­letes had racked up 77 gold medals — a new na­tional record for the Pan Am Games — and were sec­ond to the U.S. in the over­all medal stand­ings. More than 80 Pan Am records were bro­ken over the course of the Games.

De­spite a slug­gish start, tick­ets sales picked up af­ter the Games be­gan, and or­ga­niz­ers say 1,050,000 were sold over­all. Some 120 events, in­clud­ing the July 10 open­ing cer­e­mony, were sold out.

De­mand prompted or­ga­niz­ers to re­lease an ad­di­tional 100,000 tick­ets, bring­ing the to­tal avail- able for the Pan Am Games to 1.3 mil­lion. An­other 200,000 are avail­able for the Para­pan Am Games, which be­gin Aug. 7.

Saad Rafi, CEO of the Games or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, said the Games ex­ceed his ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Ev­ery ath­lete will tell you that com­pet­ing at these Games was dif­fer­ent than any other ex­pe­ri­ence they’ve had,” he said. “To me, it was just in­spir­ing to see so many peo­ple walk­ing around our city with their flag, dressed in red and wear­ing the Maple Leaf or dressed in any of the other colour of the other 40 na­tions.”

Adam van Ko­ever­den, who won the bronze medal in men’s 1,000-me­tre kayak, said he no­ticed a shift in Toronto as the Games went on.

“I think Toronto got be­hind it in a re­ally big way. My feel­ing is Toronto was com­plain­ing and whin­ing a lit­tle bit be­fore. . . but the thing that drowns out com­plain­ing and whin­ing more than any­thing is cheer­ing. Be­fore any Games, there’s al­ways that feel­ing of ap­pre­hen­sion, ’ What are we do­ing?’ and that’s re­ally been proven wrong,” he said.

The Pan Am Games have re­vived talk of a bid for the 2024 Sum­mer Olympics. Both the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee and the Cana­dian Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee have called for Toronto to make a pitch, but the city’s mayor has said he won’t make a de­ci­sion un­til af­ter the Games.

John Tory said this week of­fi­cials need to ex­am­ine the ben­e­fits and costs in­volved in a bid and in host­ing the Olympics be­fore de­cid­ing whether to pro­ceed.

COC pres­i­dent Mar­cel Aubut said Sun­day his of­fice will “lead and ad­vo­cate for Toronto’s can­di­dacy for the 2024 Olympic Games.”

“I will work closely with the City of Toronto,” said Aubut. “Noth­ing can be done with­out the mayor, with­out the city. You need a mayor to start the process.”

The Pan Ams paved the way for an Olympic bid, said Aubut.

“This is the mo­men­tum we needed to talk se­ri­ously about this,” he said.

CP PHOTO

Cana­dian women’s bas­ket­ball player Kia Nurse acts as the flag-bearer dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto on Sun­day.

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