Six years ago, Toronto won the bid to host the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games. And now, the city is gearing up for Friday’s opening ceremony in the largest international multi-sport event ever held in Canada.
Ten-thousand athletes and officials from 41 countries have descended on the city with some of the events already beginning on Tuesday. According to officials, 6,000 athletes will be competing at the Pan Am Games, while 1,600 will compete at the Parapan Am Games in August.
Around 45,000 people are expected to attend the opening ceremony that includes the athletes, 625 performers, and 600 volunteers.
Road closures will be in place around the Rogers Centre for both the opening and closing ceremonies, and along Lake Shore Boulevard for the opening ceremony. Click here for a list for a detailed list of road closures on Friday.
The opening ceremony, which is produced by Cirque du Soleil, is being held at the Rogers Centre — dubbed the Pan Am Ceremonies Venue for the Games — and includes a parade of nations and the lighting of the cauldron.
Around 45,000 spectators are expected to attend the nearly sold-out venue for the two-and-a-half-hour opening ceremony, which starts at 8 p.m. An international ensemble of performers will take the stage with wild acrobatics, dance and extreme sport, and showcase Canada’s diversity. Officials have also said the show will include surprise appearances from several Canadian sports legends, and that Pan Am athletes will be part of the show’s “set design.”
Click here to view the CN Tower photo on your mobile device.
Canoeist and Olympic bronze medallist Mark Oldershaw will be carrying the Canadian flag into the ceremony, leading a team of more than 700 athletes. Festivities start at 8 p.m., but for those who don’t have a ticket to the opening ceremony, they can watch a live feed at Nathan Phillips Square.
Over the past 41 days, torchbearers have carried the flame to more than 130 communities in Canada, after being lit in Teotihuacan, Mexico, in May.
The torch starts off at Pearson International Airport on Friday morning, where it will travel on the UP Express to Union Station, carried through the streets of Toronto to Osgoode Hall and the Hospital for Sick Children, and then continue on to the Jack Layton Ferry. Click here for a list of road closures that will be effect.
Marilyn Bell, the first person to swim across Lake Ontario, will pass the flame to former competitive swimmer Cynthia Berringer who will carry the torch on board a ferry to the Toronto Island.
The flame, carried by Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, will return via police boat to the mainland before being carried by archery medallist Crispin Duenas to the Harbourfront Centre — the final stop before the opening ceremony.
Click here for an interactive map of the torch relay route.
Excitement for the games is mixed with some sore spots — complaints and traffic issues due to the temporary HOV lanes, lackluster ticket sales and high costs.
The cost of the games is pegged at $2.5 billion — most of which has come from the federal, provincial and Toronto governments — but the initial budget was $1.44 billion.
There is a lot hinging on the success of these games. According to a report, International Olympic Committee President Thomas said Toronto could be a good candidate for the 2024 Olympic Summer Games depending on how it fairs with the Pan Am Games.
City officials and Pan Am organizers are encouraging residents and tourists to take transit, as it’s free for anyone who has a ticket to an event on that day.
TTC brass said service would be frequent to venues in Toronto, along with increased bus and streetcar service. Subway service will start at 6 a.m. on three Sundays — July 12, 19, and 26.
The Pan Am Games run until July 26, followed by the Parapan Am Games from Aug. 7-15.
With files from The Canadian Press and News Staff