A tourist video played in the background, displaying everything from the rainbow flags flying at the Gay Pride Parade to Colin Firth signing autographs at the Toronto International Film Festival to a hippopotamus spitting water at the Toronto Zoo.
With “Viva 2015!” and “Hola Guadalajara!” splashed across colourful promotional material, Toronto 2015 officials played host to dozens of international journalists Saturday. The event came a day before Mayor Rob Ford accepts the Pan American Games flag at the closing ceremonies in the traditional hand over between host cities.
Allen Vansen, senior vice-president of operations for Toronto's organizing committee — TO2015 — held court for a throng of journalists, who squeezed in two or three deep, peppering him with questions about everything from security, to transportation, to exactly how Canada managed to land yet another multi-sport Games after two Olympics and the 1999 Pan Ams.
“Canada is a very big country,” was Vansen's answer to Toronto winning its Pan Am bid. “The majority of the population lives in Toronto, and we're a very multi-cultural city, every country in the Pan Americas and many other countries around the world live in Toronto.”
TO2015 has had about two dozen officials in Guadalajara for the past two weeks, soaking up the finer details on how to run a Games.
Of the things the Toronto contingent liked about Mexico: the festive look and feel of the city, and how the local residents have embraced the Games, turning out in droves for events — such as the Canada-U.S. baseball final — that Mexico isn't even in.
There are some things, Vansen said, that Toronto plans to do differently.
Guadalajara's budget was set at US$225 million, but some sources have claimed that number has ballooned to three times that.
That number's still half what Toronto plans to spend. Vansen, a former Vancouver Olympic organizing committee (VANOC) member, said Toronto has a budget of C$700 million for venues — five new, plus renovations to 22 existing structures — plus an operating budget of $700 million for everything from transportation to security to food.
While Guadalajara was an Olympic qualifier for a dozen sports, TO2015 would like to double that number.
“We believe that's one of the key elements of attracting the best to compete, best on best,” Vansen said at the reception held at the main press centre.
He confirmed that TO2015 had approached FIBA — the world's governing body for basketball — to make the Pan Ams the Olympic qualifier in that sport. The FIBA Americas tournament is the current qualifier.
“That's a piece that we're working through with the basketball association and how we can make that work, not only the international federation side but also with the Pan American confederations,” Vansen said. “That's one that we think would be a big hit in Canada, and that's work that we're doing now.”
He wouldn't confirm or deny they're considering offering appearance fees to ensure sporting stars such as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt make the trip to Toronto.
“That's an element that gets sorted through in terms of how you promote the Games, which is very different from athletes competing,” Vansen said. “But our focus is on trying to get the best athletes competing head to head and great shows in 2015.”
Toronto lost out on its bid to host the 2008 Olympics to Beijing, and TO2015 organizers know that the Pan American Games could provide the perfect dress rehearsal for a successful Summer Games bid.
“I think our team is very focused on delivering an exceptional Games in 2015, and I think it would be a fair statement to say that if Toronto and Canada is interested in hosting another Olympic Games, the Games in 2015 have to be a success,” Vansen said. “That's really the extent of our focus, making sure we deliver a fantastic event in 2015.”
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