T.O. Pan Am cautiously optimistic

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

When it comes to winning the 2015 Pan Am Games, Jagoda Pike and the Golden Horseshoe bid committee, seem to hold a winning hand.

The politicians are on side, with the City of Hamilton becoming the latest to back the bid yesterday when it voted in favour of construction of a new stadium. There has been little public opposition, there have been indications from Pan American Sports Organization leaders that they'd like the Games to head north and Caracus, one of the other original bid cities, already has dropped out.

Not to mention, Pike, as president and chief operating officer, has almost $1.5 billion in poker chips with which to work. But she has sat around this table before and so far, Pike says, nobody she has seen is blinking.

"You can put forward the best bid in the world and still not necessarily win. There's more to this process then simply technical excellence," Pike said yesterday, as the committee continues to put together its official bid for PASO. She has played in this arena three times before with the City of Hamilton, winning a domestic bid to host the Commonwealth Games against Halifax in 2010 before losing to New Delhi at the international level; then losing again in a bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"You never count on anything in this game ... that's been my experience. Every time you feel like saying to yourself: 'Hey, we're in really good shape,' well not a chance. The pressure is always on right through until vote day. There's no time to take a break, to feel self-satisfied."

The 2010 bid by Hamilton ended in controversy when New Delhi came up with a last-minute offer of $7.2 million in what they called "training funds" for all 72 Commonwealth countries who had a vote. New Delhi, already the favourite because India had never hosted a Games, won 46 of 68 votes. India's Minister of State for Sports, Vijay Goel, told reporters at the time: "I don't think it is bribe." There are those in Hamilton who begged to differ.

"One thing I learned from Commonwealth is that you can always take a (preliminary vote) count and say: 'Hey I think we're there!' But that's usually never the case," Pike said. "You just don't know until the votes are cast because you're dealing with a number of countries, different human beings. Each one of them has a different perspective on the factors they weigh in making their decision. And it is a political process .... there's relationships. There's friendships. There's grudges."

And, sometimes what is considered business in one culture is considered unethical in another. Sometimes the lines blur.

Toronto, as well as bid committees from Bogota, Colombia and Lima, Peru, must present bid books which detail facilities and where games will be played in April," Pike said. "Some (voters) look at this through the lens of an athlete or an official, some will look at it through the lens of where it's taking place, from climate, the quality of facilities. They may look at political issues. It's difficult."

Sometimes bids hit a speedbump even before leaving city limits.

Paul Henderson, a veteran of two attempts to bring the Olympics to Toronto, still points to social activist group, Bread Not Circuses, and former premier Bob Rae, as saboteurs who helped Atlanta win the 1996 Games.

So far, even with a recession, there has been little opposition, although it wouldn't surprise Pike if it comes.

"It is important to have domestic support, to be able to show community support. On the other hand, there are always protests. You will not go to a country and get everyone saying this is great. There always will be a voice of dissent. We're a great democracy and there should be dissent. If there isn't dissent I'd say something would be wrong."

Pike gets to play her cards in November when the 42-member countries vote on where the Games will be held.

BILL.LANKHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos