Pan Am bid committee close to venue announcements

Bill Lankhof, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:24 PM ET

The bid committee attempting to bring the 2015 Pan Am Games to Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe is close to announcing where individual sports will be held.

“We’re not all the way yet. We’re close ... a couple of weeks away from being able to unveil most, if not all, of the plan,” Jagoda Pike, the bid committee’s president and chief operating officer, said yesterday.

Pike declined to be specific but it is expected that Toronto will see construction of several new sporting venues under the plan.

As well, the Rogers Centre will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies. “I think a very poorly kept secret is that potentially we’d be thrilled to have the opening and closing ceremonies at the Rogers Centre,” Pike said. “We want to use the key venues in town like the Air Canada Centre and BMO Field. Those are all key landmarks.”

This would suggest that Toronto will be the site of at least some of the soccer and baseball tournaments. “It is a Golden Horseshoe bid but Toronto certainly is the international face of this bid. It is a key part of it and I think you’ll see some good developments for Toronto when we’re ready to talk about it,” Pike said.

“(Until then) it will be fun to speculate.”

The committee must submit its official bid to host the Games to the Pan American Sports Organization by Jan. 31. They are expected to select a host city this fall. Lima, Peru and Bogota, Columbia, are also in the bidding but the past two Games have been in Latin America and the 2011 Games are scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico. As a result, Pan American Sports Organization president Mario Vasquez Rana, has indicated to insiders he would be pleased (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) to bring the Games back to North America.

The federal, provincial and municipal governments within the Golden Horseshoe have established a $1.75 billion budget to host the Games with hopes that it will also help spur local economies, as well as improve crumbling sports infra-structure.

There have been numerous proposals from communities to host events, said Pike. Too many, actually. “It’s been tough in the sense that you have a lot of municipalities that want to participate and a lot of communities which want to benefit from the bid,” said Pike.

“The hard part has been prioritizing because there isn’t enough money to go around to do all the

things everybody would like to do.”

Toronto, for instance, has two Olympic pools that need ugrading, there is no international track facility, no velodrome, and gymnasts practice in places where bouncing off ceilings is a probability. Hamilton would like a new stadium to replace aging Ivor Wynne and Caledon would like to implement plans for soccer facilities.

“We have to be disciplined about what to build and what not to build, and, if we build where to build it. We’re close (to identifying) where each of the sports will be hosted. Then obviously, we

will identify what will be in existing facilities and what will be built,” said Pike.

Some current facilities will be utilized to reduce costs. Athletes will be housed at the University of Toronto to avoid the expense of building an Olympic-style village.

The Games attract more than 5,000 athletes from 42 countries and, if the committee wins the bid, it will mean a projected 17,000 jobs and up to 250,000 tourists.


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