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ONE BIG TEAM SPIRIT
 
(2015 - Spring Issue)

Writer: STEVE GILLICK



Dane Sharp’s excitement is contagious.

Currently ranked among the top four squash players in Canada, he enthuses the upcoming 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in the Toronto and Golden Horseshoe area “will be a great experience with each athlete feeding off everyone else’s energy.” And for the expected 250,000 visitors from around the world the effect will be nothing short of magical, as they share in the spirit of watching 7,600 inspiring, young athletes at their peak level of performance, proudly showing off their sport to the world. 

These thoughts are echoed by Teddy Katz, the chief spokesperson for the Games when he speaks about the theme, “Ignite the Spirit,”which wraps all the attendees—athletes and visitors—in the same cloak of exhilaration and healthfulness. With wellness tourism pegged as a $2 trillion global phenomenon and sports tourism, in Canada alone, generating $5.2 billion a year, it’s no wonder why everyone’s buzzing about the upcoming Games.

Toronto is energetically in the final stages of preparation for the third largest multi-sport event in sport history. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the base for competition, however 16 communities will also hold events representing 51 sports. And with 41 nations competing in the Pan Am Games from July 10 to 26 and the Parapan Am Games from August 7 to 15, each country will have its own cheering section, reflecting the multicultural nature of the GTA where, in the city alone, more than 140 languages and dialects are spoken.

A Celebration of Champions

Katz related one touching story about a Central American squash player who requested a photo of the Pan Am medals so he could use them as inspiration during his training. And this story repeats itself in various forms. 

Benoit Huot is known as The Shark when it comes to para-athletic swimming competitions. The holder of 10 gold and seven silver medals in Sydney, Athens and London talks about Canada as his inspiration to excel in the Parapan Am Games. “This is my only chance to compete on home soil in front of friends, family and visitors,”and he goes on to explain that everyone at the Games will become part of “one big team spirit.”

This spirit will be ignited in major celebration zones in the city. Andrew Weir, executive vice president of Tourism Toronto speaks about the “vibrancy and culture” of the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games as “the perfect combination of elite sport and the spirit of fun.” In the Toronto area alone there will be three big celebration zones: The Toronto Celebration Hub at Nathan Phillips Square, where large viewing screens will be set up and medal ceremonies will take place; Ontario Square, based at Harbourfront Centre, where all regions of the province will be showcased with music and festivities; and Celebration Square in Mississauga where community engagement will complement the competitions taking place in the area.

Access Management

But with the number of athletes and visitors expected in the Toronto area, some cynics have used the term “Pan-Am-demonium”to describe potential traffic chaos. Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation notes the goal is to instil a feeling of “home” to all visitors and, as such, a number of strategies will be implemented. The Games Route Network of roads and highways will provide reliable travel for athletes to ensure they arrive on schedule. The Union Pearson Express will whisk visitors to and from the airport in 25 minutes. Clear and consistent signage will guide visitors to the events, and a Games Trip Planner App will offer suggestions on the best routes to the sporting venues. Spectators will even be able to use event tickets to access the public transit system on the day of the event.

Melissa Humana-Paredes, one of Canada’s top beach volleyball players, is looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies, where “the best of the best” will electrify the Rogers Centre when the country teams and flag bearers parade in. Cirque du Soleil’s performance will only enhance the energy of the evening.

And Juan René Serrano Gutierrez, who competed in archery in three Olympics, three Pan American Games and eight World Championships, sees participation in the 2015 Games as nothing short of a gift. He commented: “The games are full of hope and joy.” 

What better way to spend the summer of 2015 than cheering on a country’s athletes, sharing in the spirit of fun and healthy competition, visiting the amazing new sports facilities in Toronto and neighbouring communities, and being part of sports history.

Teddy Katz suggested: “The best games are the ones where people are blown away by how beautiful the city and the facilities are, how nice the people are and how helpful the volunteers are.” This is what’s in store for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Isn’t this what travel excitement and fulfillment is all about? See you in Toronto in July!

Travel Planner

Tickets to the Pan Am/Parapan Am games are available through the official website at toronto2015.org. Ticket prices are reasonable with discounts for those under 16 and over 65 years of age. Hotel space is also available in the many different accommodation categories available in the Greater Toronto Area and neighbouring communities hosting events.

 
 
 
 
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