With the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games finishing up, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and reevaluate the effects of the competition on the city of Toronto, as well as its 2.8 million residents.
Initial concerns about the games revolved around transit and expenditure. Carpool lanes and millions of tax dollars were the topic of conversation for many, not to mention the common consensus that the games would be, as one U of T student was blunt enough to say, a “watered-down version of the summer Olympics.”
However, initial apathy about another expensive, inconvenient sporting competition quickly turned to excitement, then national pride, after Canada won its first gold medal of the competition in women’s kayaking — enthusiasm which seemed to grow stronger with each medal won by team Canada.
After a grand total of 217 medals — 14 of which were contributed by Varsity Blues athletes and U of T alumni — and an epic closing ceremony, sentiment turned from, what Toronto Mayor John Tory affectionately labeled “moaning and groaning” to an abundance of patriotism.“The Pan Am [Games] have been a great opportunity for members of the university community,” said David Onley, senior lecturer at U of T.
Onley, who also served as U of T’s Special Ambassador for the Pan Am Games, highlighted the importance of U of T’s involvement in the success of the competition, citing that facilities like the Aquatics Center at UTSC, and the success of so many U of T athletes, “gives us at the university the deserved reputation of being affiliated with sport.”
With ticket sales in the millions and the unprecedented success of Canadian athletes at the Pan Am Games, whispers of a potential 2024 summer Olympic bid have turned to serious debate in the sports community.
Principal of UTSC and Olympian Bruce Kidd agrees that the time could be right for Toronto to host the Olympic Games, with U of T taking a principle role thanks to brand new facilities like the freshly turfed back campus. “There are some very favourable factors right now,” said Kidd, referring to the various world-class facilities erected for the Pan Am Games, adding “[With] what we’ve done for the Pan Ams… Canada can provide stability and a guaranteed wonderful [Olympic] Games.” Even though hosting the Olympics comes with far more commitment, financial and otherwise, than the Pan Am Games, Torontonians and athletes alike are rallying behind the idea of hosting another international sporting competition.
“My experience here in Toronto was absolutely amazing… I would love to have another chance to compete in front of the home crowd,” said Canadian decathlon athlete Damian Warner, adding “I think the people here in Toronto really got behind and supported the athletes.”
With Canada’s last Olympic bid shattered by Beijing in 2008, the timing, and preparation, is in place for us to be successful contenders for 2024 — and we’ll know sooner, rather than later, with official bids due by September 15.