It's game on in Mexico

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

David Peterson will take a 228-page book with a red and white cover to Mexico City today, hoping it becomes a bestseller for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe.

At stake are 15,000 jobs in the province to build six new sports venues, the West Don Lands athletes' village and to upgrade various track and pool facilities that will leave a legacy for athletics and keep the fire lit for a possible Olympic bid in the future.

Peterson, chairman of the Toronto 2015 committee, presented a copy of the bid book to Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday before official delivery of the $2.4-billion plan ($1 billion for the athletes village at the West Don Lands already under construction) to Mario Vazquez Rana, president of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO).

PASO will in turn send an evaluation committee here in August with an eye to deciding between Toronto, Lima, Peru, and Bogota, Colombia, in November.

McGuinty, who helped cobble together a federal, provincial and municipal team to support the bid, says a winning vote is essential "if we want to create the more than 15,000 jobs in construction that will help us through this global recession and build legacy venues that will enhance our quality of life in the long term."

The $1.4-billion operating budget was cut back from about $1.8 billion after the economic downturn. The federal and provincial governments are each putting in 35% of the $1.4 billion, with municipalities and the private sector kicking in about $428.5 million.

Participating GTA cities include Hamilton, St. Catharines and locales in the Durham and Simcoe areas. The bid book, written in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese includes a breakdown of venues, accommodations, transportation, security, finance, culture and marketing. It took months to prepare and former Premier Peterson thinks all the bases were covered in the delicate process of wooing 27 of 42 PASO nation votes.

'BIGGEST ENEMY IS SMUGNESS'

"We put on a very good presentation but the other cities are improving their game," Peterson warned. "Our biggest enemy is smugness, that we have some God-given right. (Lima and Bogota) are totally dedicated to winning and aren't fooling around. They have deep roots in the athletic community in South America.

"We were in Montevideo (Uruguay) over the weekend for the meetings of the South American sports organization. That's not traditionally a strong area for us with two competitors in the area, but we were well received and we are building friends every day.

"This is a long, slow process, not as though you can wine 'em and dine 'em and win 'em. You have to earn the right to host these games."

Peterson adds that the Canadian bid has to walk a fine line between showing off the country's clear advantages as a rich nation and being sensitive that the South American countries will want to demonstrate their stability on the world stage.

"One of the arguments they will make is that they want transformation (which holding the games would foster)," Peterson said.

"Everyone will go to their own strengths. Various bids have different cultures to show off. We are being conscientious right to the comma and leaving no stone unturned.

'FABULOUS CITY'

"We have a fabulous city, a diverse community, and commitment of three levels of government. Canada has a reputation for being safe, secure, generous and loving, but at the end of the day, it's how much we care about this. It's the thing that we'll be judged on.

"We're trying to persuade everyone of our competence and our passion to make these the best games ever and enhance the Pan Am brand. But it's a democracy and sometimes the best person doesn't win. We have to work extraordinarily hard at this just to chase one vote."

Jagoda Pike, president and COO of the bid, said a big carrot for votes will be the Ontario bid's offer to allow Pan Am athletes to train here leading up to the games.

"Many of these countries don't have the infrastructure they desire," said Pike, adding that food, water, lack of altitude problems and good weather conditions in July and August are other factors in Ontario's favour.

"It's a big community and a welcoming community. No matter which country is playing, the audience will be there."


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