Many of you have seen posters scattered around the city advertising the 2015 Pan-American (Pan Am) games. If you are a student attending U of T’s Scarborough campus, it is hard to miss the new sporting facilities that have been erected in preparation for the games. However, despite the multiple advertisements and the building of sporting arenas, a common question among Torontonians remains: what exactly are the Pan Am games?

The Pan-American games unite the Americas through sport. The games are held every four years — one year before the Summer Olympics. Each of the 41 countries that compete in the games are part of the Pan American Games Organization, which is associated with around 7, 000 athletes, and Parapan Am athletes, from over 20 countries — north, south, and central America, as well as the Caribbean, all have athletes competing in the games this year.

There are 48 different sporting events at this year’s games, and 16 sports being featured in the Parapan Am games. The Pan Am games feature some sports that aren’t included in the Olympics; like baseball, bowling, open water swimming, sailing, and waterskiing, to name a few.

The Parapan Am competition features a variety of unique events like boccia, goalball, and sitting volleyball.  Goalball is a sport adapted for the visually impaired, which has a ball with a bell attached to it. The main goal is to get the ball into the other team’s net. Boccia is a sport for those who have motor skills impairments. The aim is to propel six balls as close to another target ball as possible.

The Pan Am games, exclusively, allow North Americans to be featured in a range of sporting events beyond just those offered at the Olympics. The Pan Am games are usually held only in the winter, where as the Olympics are offered in both the summer and the winter. The Olympic games also tend to be much larger as they are a global competition.

The 2015 Pan Am games take place across Toronto from July 7th– 26th. The Para Pan Am games take place August 7th– 15th.