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David Peterson

David Peterson

David Peterson

Why Toronto should get excited about the Pan Am Games Add to ...

Former Ontario premier David Peterson is chairman of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games organizing committee

One year from today, Toronto and 15 surrounding municipalities are set to host an event unlike anything the region has ever seen before. On July 10, 2015, a dazzling opening ceremony produced by Cirque du Soleil will kick off the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, and on August 7, 2015, the spectacle continues with an opening ceremony celebrating the start of the 2015 Parapan Am Games.

The Toronto 2015 Games will be the biggest celebration this city has ever hosted – 7,600 athletes from the Americas will descend upon us to compete against some of the best in the world. They will break records. And Canadians will have a front-row seat while more than 380 million households – from Brazil to the United States and Victoria to Halifax – watch together in living rooms, local pubs and city squares.

Never before has Canada hosted a multi-sport event of this size. These Games will be bigger than the Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal Olympics. The process to recruit the 20,000 volunteers we need is one of the largest ever executed in peace time. And the $730-million investment in sport infrastructure – like a new Velodrome in Milton and a sparkling new Aquatics Centre and Field House in Scarborough – is the biggest in Canadian amateur sport history.

These games will see our region become a go-to place for athletes who want to compete on the world stage. Already, Swimming Canada has announced that the 2016 Olympic swimming trials will be held at Scarborough’s soon-to-be-completed CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House. This is the first of many high-performance sport events our new facilities will host after the Games.

These games will change lives for the better. They will inspire young people, who may not otherwise consider sports, to get in the game, embrace fitness and build confidence. They will also create an estimated 26,000 jobs. In fact, the Province of Ontario suggests that, between 2009 and 2017, the games will grow the province’s real GDP by $3.7-billion.

Of course, there will always be those who don’t believe in games or their associated legacy. Those critics existed in Vancouver, in London, in Sochi, and in Brazil before the World Cup began. There is a certain rhythm to games planning that seems to replicate itself over and over again, no matter where they are taking place. Questions and criticism come with the territory – we knew that at the outset.

But we also know the world will be watching as we showcase this region and its incredible diversity and talents in 2015. So it’s absolutely important we get this right. As an organizing committee, it is our job to ensure that we’re ready for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that all the pieces are in place to make Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe region a hub for sport for years to come.

We’re already making incredible progress on that front; of the 25 new sport venues we’re building or upgrading, most will be open months ahead of the games and are coming in on or under budget. In fact, to date, our overall capital building program has come in $57-million under the initial projected budget.

The summer of 2015 is fast approaching. On Friday, we kick off our one-year countdown celebrations with the unveiling of the Cisco Toronto 2015 countdown clock at Nathan Phillips Square, right in front of Toronto City Hall.

In just one year, athletes will push themselves to extremes, Canadian artists will show the world their talents, and families, young people, neighbours and friends will wrap themselves in their flags and hit the streets to celebrate sport and culture.

The countdown is on. I know that over the next year all Canadians will feel the excitement. I hope you can join us next summer for an experience unlike any other in Toronto’s history.

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