Let The Games Begin – Toronto Hosts the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games

Toronto is hosting the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games this summer and some of the traffic delays will affect your trip upto the cottage in Huntsville / Lake od Bays. Below the article we have listed some of traffic delays you may run into on your way to Muskoka.

On a Wednesday morning this past April, impatient students from Toronto’s Hillcrest Community School could be seen boarding buses for a unique field trip. Their destination was 30 kilometres away in Scarborough at the CIBC Pan Am / Parapan Am Aquatics Center and Field House. One of several stunning new facilities built for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, it was now open to the public. Inside the structure, top athletes from across Canada were kicking furiously in the pools, warming up and working their trial times in a bid to compete at the upcoming games. For the visiting kids, used to the 15 yard pool found in their own school, the volume of water held in these massive twin Olympic pools was overwhelming. “We could have kayak races in there!” exclaimed one eager student. As it turns out, the kayak races will be held 170 kilometres away at the newly expanded Welland Pan Am Flatwater Centre.

Over 60 years ago, the first Pan Am Games were held in Argentina as a showcase for athletes from this side of the globe. Since then, Winnipeg has been the only Canadian city to host the Summer Games, and has done so twice, the first during the Confederation Centennial celebration of 1967 and again in 1999. The 1999 games were a great financial success, culminating with a multi-million dollar surplus. For Canadian athletes, who won medals in 37 of the 38 sports showcased that year, it represented one of the most successful games ever. Canadians should be able to expect a repeat of this home effect on their athletes again this year in Toronto. Teddy Katz, Director of Media Relations, says that the expectation held by the Canadian Olympic Committee is that Canada will place in the top two winners at these games, while in the Para Pan Am games the expectation is to finish in the top three.

Why are these games so important for this city? One answer could be that it’s all about the infrastructure. Beating out two South American cities, Toronto prepared a winning bid in 2009 for these games, and the city has been building and renovating ever since.

The CIBC Aquatics Centre in Scarborough is only one example of major infrastructure projects that have been ongoing across Southern Ontario. The Athlete’s Village near Toronto’s waterfront represents a massive redevelopment of 35 acres of industrial wasteland near the mouth of the Don River. After the games are over, the area will become one of those mixed-use neighbourhoods that Toronto is admired for, anchored by the 82,000 square foot Cooper-Koo Family YMCA facility. Track and field will be held at a new stadium built on York University’s campus. Out in Milton, a new Velodrome will host cycling competitions.

When asked about the lasting legacy of all of this infrastructure, Katz says that “a lot of thought has gone into how they will be used after the games… you will see a hub of activity there,” and, particularly in regards to the CIBC Aquatics Centre, “you can already see people from the community out doing learn-to-swim.” To this end, one interesting feature of the 50 metre training pool is a movable floor, allowing control of depth – shallow for learn-to-swim, deep for synchronized swimming. The attached field house has space for three full size basketball courts, and it is already being used by community members for pickup sports and tournaments in the evening such as basketball, volleyball and badminton.

With all 28 Olympic sports being showcased, plus eight more contenders (water skiing, baseball, and softball amongst them), 15 of these sports will be qualifiers for Rio 2016. Baseball is trying to regain its spot in the Olympics after losing its short-lived status. A strong performance at the Pan Am games could help its cause. Though it had been showcased on and off at the Summer Games since 1904, the sport was never granted medal status by the International Olympic Committee until the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. Then, in 2005, it was decided that Baseball and Softball would no longer be granted medals in the Olympics. Many people involved in the sport would like to see it reinstated. Expect the competition in Ajax to be intense.

Though there is a break of approximately two weeks after the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games, the Para Pan Am Games promise to be equally as exciting. Held over nine days, 15 sports will be featured. Originally known as “Murderball,” wheelchair rugby is sure to be attractive to many Canadian sports fans. Invented in Winnipeg in 1976, the sport combines the speed and contact of hockey with flashy, pimped-out armoured wheelchairs. It has since gained popularity in countries around the world and is not to be missed. “This is a great opportunity for many people to see a side of sports that they may not have seen before. They may not look at the Parapan and see it for what it is, which is high quality elite sport, athletes who are training just like the Olympic athletes train, and they don’t get anywhere near the recognition sometimes,” added Katz, referring not just to wheelchair rugby.

As of this printing, in excess of 350,000 tickets have already been sold. Remaining tickets are released as seating configurations are finalized and are available by going to the official website at www.toronto2015.org/tickets. While the opening ceremonies will run from $55 to $355 per ticket, most sporting events will be under $45, with the organizers having made strides to ensure these games remain accessible to the public. For example, in some cases, tickets will also grant access to public transit, and discounted tickets are available for youth and seniors in a bid to include a larger circle of sports fans with limited means.

As Mr. Katz says: ”The games are so great for Toronto because its a way to showcase what is so amazing about this city when it comes to its diversity… There’s probably not a better place to host the games because so many people come from so many different countries and they make Toronto their home. Each one of the 41 participating nations will have their own hometown cheering section here at the games. I can’t think of too many places where that would be the case.”

For information about Traffic Delays enroute to cottage country, download the PDF’s below:

During the Games, temporary traffic changes will be in place in Oro-Medonte near the Hardwood Mountain Bike Park, typically
known as Hardwood Ski and Bike. Download PDF

Originally published in COLLECTIONS by Harvey Kalles Real Estate, Summer 2015

Photo: Pan Am Swim Trials, courtesy of Audrey Lacroix