Pan Ams could raise fitness levels

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

From the higher, faster, stronger segment of high-performance athletes to the kid kicking a ball in the driveway, a winning Pan Am Games bid could improve fitness levels in Ontario.

"We'd like to have a much higher participation rate in amateur sports of all ages," Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday when the 2015 bid book was presented to him by the organizing committee.

"We've all heard about the obesity epidemic that plagues North American kids and the addiction of our children to sedentary lifestyles, computer games and those kinds of things.

"The media coverage (of the games) that will penetrate into Ontario high schools, it will excite our kids. This will also lead, I'm convinced, to better performances by our athletes."

That was seconded by Toronto rhythmic gymnast Alexandra Orlando, who was on hand for yesterday's presentation.

"The Pan Ams are critical as a stepping stone," said the triple gold medal winner from the 2007 games in Brazil. "It gave me the extra passion and drive to go for the Olympics.

"I don't think people in our region have seen that kind of competition and I definitely think it will promote getting our kids into sports and physical activities.

"For Ontario athletes, it would be a chance to compete at home, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It will expose people to events they've never seen before. And I can't stress how much new and improved sports facilities will mean."

Mike Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, who has had a hand in several bid books, including the successful attempt by Vancouver to get the 2010 Winter Games, said all the lessons learned from previous bids went into the Pan Am presentation.

"Unquestionably, it's a winnable bid," Chambers said. "A colleague said to me that 'Toronto gets it'. The village has to be comfortable, secure and provide all the facilities and food athletes need during the games. The second thing required is international quality competition venues. All those are there, with no second-class venues.

"You also have to have a transportation system that works, that gets people there and gets them back. Veteran athletes only ask three things: House us, feed us and get us to the church on time. Everyone looks for legacy and this plan has legacy built in."

Bid chairman David Peterson promised the Canadians wouldn't be reneging on anything they put in the bid to PASO, the Pan Am Sports Organization.

"They're very suspicious of people who go in there and promise one thing, but change it three years later," Peterson said. "But under the bid contract, you can't change fundamental parts without approval. You can't offer up the Four Seasons as an athletes village and then put people in the Holiday Inn."


Videos

Photos