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Pan Am Games 2–year countdown begins

Mayor Rob Ford speaks at a ceremony for the two-year countdown to the Pan/Parapan Am Games in Toronto on July 10, 2013. CITYNEWS

Government and sports officials marked the two-year countdown to the Pan Am Games on Wednesday with the help of an Olympic gymnast, BMX bikers and much fanfare.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was one of several dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony in the financial district on Wednesday.

“I’m extremely pleased — extremely pleased — that Toronto is the official host city for these exciting games,” Ford said.

“In 2015, we’ll welcome the world to this great city.”

Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan said the games will be the largest sporting event ever held on Canadian soil, attracting tens of thousands of athletes, fans and volunteers.

“As we count down the final days, the final hours and the final seconds, we will be on our marks. We will be ready to welcome the games of the Americas,” Chan said.

He also said the athletes’ village in the east end is 50 per cent complete.

“Things are looking really good,” TO2015 CEO Ian Troop told Breakfast Television earlier Wednesday.

“We’re on track, on schedule and under budget.”

Troop said construction on all major venues had begun in 2012 and was scheduled to be completed in 2014. Transit will be a major issue and a study is underway to ensure it doesn’t disrupt daily life.

“We’ve got a big footprint. It’s important to be able to move our athletes to all the different facilities,” without having a major impact on daily commuters, Troop said.

Olympic silver medalist Jason Burnett did his award-winning trampoline routine and BMX riders performed aerial tricks. Visitors tried out rugby, modern pentathlon and sitting volleyball.

The 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games will be the largest international multi-sport competition ever hosted in Canada. In fact, more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and officials – and more than 20,000 volunteers – will participate in 48 sports, and it’s not all in Toronto.

The events will be held across 17 municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe from Welland to Oshawa.

The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games will take place from July 10-26, 2015, and the Parapan Am Games will be held from Aug. 7-14, 2015.