Pan-Am reality check

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Toronto can't win the Pan-American Games this weekend, but it could lose them.

"That's it, 100%," said Bob Richardson, senior adviser to Toronto 2015, the bid committee attempting to bring the Games to the Golden Horsehoe.

That bid faces its sternest test yet when a Pan-American Sports Organization evaluation commission arrives for a two-day inspection visit today.

"Anytime you do these things there's always a certain amount of risk involved. The people preparing this evaluation visit have worked very hard," said Richardson, also formerly chief operating officer for Toronto's 2008 Olympic bid. "I suspect Toronto will put its best foot forward."

Here's hoping nobody trips over it.

The bid committee will show off such venues as the Rogers Centre, landmarks like the CN Tower and sites for proposed facilities like a new aquatics centre. It will brief the commission on its blueprint for the Games. All of this they can control.

FIVE-MAN COMMISSION

The five-man commission is led by Julio Cesar Maglione, an International Olympic Committee member and head of the world swimming federation, and it includes such PASO heavyweights as Felipe Munoz Kapamas, influential head of the Mexican Olympic Committee.

The commission visited Lima earlier this week and was completing its tour in Bogota yesterday before arriving in Toronto.

"We're in the final leg of the competition," Richardson said. "They go back to Mexico City and write their report and either you pass or fail. I'd anticipate all three cities pass ... but it's still crucial because these guys are all voters and they're influential members of PASO. If they walk away saying Toronto is fantastic, it's a huge boost."

TALL BREAKFAST

But it wouldn't be good if they end up stuck in traffic on the Gardiner, tripping over a panhandlers convention, or getting the only elevator that gets stuck half way up the CN Tower, which is where the Pied Pipers of this tour, David Peterson, chairman of Toronto 2015, and Jagoda Pike, its president, will kick off the visit with a breakfast.

Like Toronto's streets, sometimes the potholes can sneak up on you; although Toronto 2015 board member Chris Rudge noted at a press conference last week that "we've had no ... red flags about our bid."

There is opposition. An Ontario Coalition Against Poverty group wants government money destined for the Games to go to social housing and homelessness. It has a rally tomorrow at Varsity Stadium and plans protests at venues.

Meanwhile, after turning the evaluation commission's heads 360-degrees from atop the CN tower, the bid committee will show them the proposed site of the Athlete's Village -- scheduled to become mixed-income housing after the Games -- on the West Don Lands.

"We're taking them ... a variety of places to give them a sense of what we're offering. It's a busy trip," Richardson said.

Tomorrow, they're in Hamilton to check out the site of the proposed track and field stadium and McMaster University.

Stephen Fischer, operations manager for Welland's Recreational Canal Corp., told Sun Media's Welland Tribune recently that he's confident the flatwater racing venues are in "tiptop shape" and ready to be showcased.

The tour will wind up with visits to Varsity Stadium, the Rogers Centre, BMO Field and the CNE.

After that, it's wait, lobby, and hope.

RUN 17 DAYS

The Games would run 17 days and bring $1.4 billion of government and private funding into sports infrastructure.

"There's a lot of comparisons between the two," Richardson said of Toronto's bid for the Olympics and its smaller Pan-Am cousin.

"It's a big plan and effort. It involves a lot of the same sports. Obviously the Olympics are a better known brand, but the thing about this is you get a lot of infrastructure built, which is great for kids, families and high-performance athletes."

The commission doesn't usually recommend who should be awarded the Games, but its observations influence which way the up to 51 members of PASO vote Nov. 5 when a host city is named.


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