Skip to main content

Some competitions have already started, such as water polo. Canada's Kevin Graham carries the ball during Canada's water polo match against Venezuela at the Pan Am Games in Markham, Ontario, Thursday, July 9, 2015.Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press

Friday marks the beginning of more than a month of competition in and around Toronto as the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games begin. From July 10 to Aug. 15, athletes from all over the Americas will compete in some 400 events. Here's what you need to know about the first day of the games.

Where will the torch be?

The Pan Am torch relay will complete its 41-day journey today. It will begin at Toronto Pearson Airport, make its way to Union Station, head to the Hospital for Sick Children, then board a ferry for Toronto Island. It will be carried back by police boat to Harbourfront Centre before it makes an appearance at the Opening Ceremony.

Where and what is the Opening Ceremony?

For the duration of the games, the Rogers Centre has been rechristened as the Pan Am Ceremonies Venue and will host both the opening and closing events.

Developed by Cirque du Soleil, not much has been revealed about the two-and-a-half hour event, however the circus troupe has teased sketches of leather costumes and feather dresses for the performers.

The ceremony starts at 8 p.m., but those with tickets are asked to be seated by 6:45 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. Public transit fare is included with with Games events tickets. A full list of public transit partners can be accessed here.

Tickets for the ceremony are still available online, though the best option right now runs about $230. Those who don't want to fork over that much money can see a free live screening at Nathan Phillips Square starting at 8 p.m, with entertainment in the square starting at 5 p.m.

The John Street Bridge will be closed on Friday as well as July 26 from 6:45 p.m. until midnight for the ceremonies.

When can I see people compete for medals?

Technically, some competitions have already started. Water polo, synchronized swimming, and equestrian have held events throughout the week. Most other disciplines start competing over the weekend. Boxing, fencing, racquetball and a few other sports won't get their start until more than halfway into the games.

If all you care about is medals, flat canoeing, BMX cycling, diving, judo, open water, synchronized swimming and weightlifting will be issuing them on the first official day of competitions on Saturday. You can see a full schedule here.

What if I don't like sports?

Don't worry. The games will also be hosting entertainment and music at Nathan Phillips square daily. Highlights include performances by The Roots, The Flaming Lips, and A Tribe Called Red, with over 130 artists performing.

Part of the closing ceremonies will also take place in the square on Aug. 15. The event is being billed as the Games' biggest party, where the torch will officially be handed over to Lima, Peru, who will host the 2019 games.

What if I want to avoid the games altogether?

That might not be easy. Venues for the games are located throughout the GTA and beyond, with facilities in Hamilton, Niagara, Mississauga, Milton, Oshawa, Ajax and as far north as Minden. Toronto itself has 11 venues, including two tennis centres, Ryerson Athletic Centre, and of course the ceremonies venue. A full list of venues can be accessed here.

Good luck avoiding traffic as well. For the duration of the games, many highways will have a restricted high-occupancy-vehicle lane, open only to accredited games vehicles, taxis and limousines, first responders, as well as anyone carrying at least three people per vehicle.

Is anyone excited for these games?

Apparently not. On Thursday, the New York Times published an article with the headline In an Indifferent Toronto, the Pan-Am Games Land With a Thud, cementing Toronto's reputation as indifferent to everything but Drake. Citing lacklustre ticket sales and the focus of public discussion not on the games but on carpool lanes, the Times predicted a very limited impact the games will have.

Organizers are continuing their efforts to promote ticket sales, which have been lacklustre.