In about 10 seconds -- hopefully less if your name is Usain Bolt -- the reputation of Varsity Stadium and the City of Toronto as a top track and field venue could get a boost.
Not since the 1980s has the University of Toronto's premier outdoor athletic facility been mentioned in the same breath as world-class performances. But with the rebuilt stadium and 100-metre champion Bolt headlining the Festival Of Excellence on June 11, Varsity will be back on the map, just as the committee for the 2015 Pan Am Games gets around to judging local sites.
David Peterson, the U of T chancellor and chairman of the Toronto bid, will be helping with the official Pan Am presentation in November.
"This is a precursor to our ability to hold world-class athletics, a measure of our passion," Peterson said yesterday when the Festival lineup was unveiled.
Organizers have bundled the Festival with the Canadian Track and Field championship , and in the week prior, the OFSAA finals and Toronto public school meets.
Tickets, which went on sale yesterday, cover both the festival, the national championships and select high school events on June 11 as a warmup to Bolt.
Luring Bolt, who is the world's fastest human after his 9.69 time in the Beijing Olympics, is a coup, but star American decathlete Bryan Clay also is aboard and a strong Canadian field features Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Perdita Felicien, Mark Dillon and Tyler Christopher.
Former track star Bruce Kidd, now the Dean of Physical Education at U of T, would not comment on speculation that Bolt is getting in the $100,000 range for his Toronto cameo.
"But seeing a sprinter like that up close is an event people will remember the rest of their lives," Kidd said. "I don't know all about the TV numbers from Beijing, but he appeals to sports fans far beyond track. And he's from a (Jamaican) community with a very important role here."
Tickets range from $75 to $200 and the event will be televised on TSN. Organizers hope to sell 7,000 tickets.
"We think they'll be enough demand," Kidd said. "We see this as building around other events and contributing to the buzz around elementary and high school track. But we have to break even and the pricing was done with that in mind."
Lopes-Schliep, a bronze medallist in hurdles at Beijing, looks forward to the high-profile events.
"When I go over to Europe in the Grand Prix events, the stands are full, the adrenaline's running and there's excitement everywhere," she said. "To have that in Toronto and to have people experience that would be huge."