Just use your imagination

Pan Am Games evaluator Danilo Carrera Drouet tries his hand at tennis yesterday at the Rexall...

Pan Am Games evaluator Danilo Carrera Drouet tries his hand at tennis yesterday at the Rexall Centre during his committee's tour of Toronto facilities. (Sun Media/Mark O'Neill)

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Toronto 2015 kicked off its two-day bragfest to win the Pan Am Games yesterday with breakfast at the CN Tower.

Very appropriate: The five-man Pan American Sports Organization evaluation committee had to have their heads in the clouds much of the day to imagine what the facilities will look like. They saw mostly dirt, they looked at construction sites, they looked at buildings that need to be refitted and they looked at models and videos.

"This is normal and it would've happened in any of the three cities (bidding for the 2015 Games). They want to get a feel for where you will build," said Toronto 2015 senior adviser Bob Richardson, as the two-day visit that could decide who gets the Games got under way. "It gives them a sense of scale: Are you up against a million buildings? Are there open fields? Every city has something ... they still need to build."

Besides, it's nothing that $1.4 billion in government money can't fix.

So, Toronto 2015 bid chairman David Peterson and president Jagoda Pike huddled in a tented area with PASO representatives on the West Don Lands, site of the proposed athletes village.

There were stops at the future home of the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario and an aquatic centre, at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. There was a peek at what will become the media and broadcast centre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and PASO members heard pitches from former Olympic gold medalists Carol Huyn and Alex Baumann.

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

The evaluation team, which visited other bid cities in Lima and Bogota earlier this week, isn't likely to name a No. 1 candidate but its findings will influence the 42-member voting nations when a host city is named in November. "You don't know until the voting happens," said Richardson of where Toronto stands, "but we have a strong plan and so far the response we've gotten is very positive."

Disturbances by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which planned to bus protestors to various venues, failed to make an impact. "I think there were a half dozen at the proposed aquatic centre (in Scarborough) but to describe it as a non-event would be an over-statement," said Richardson.

The "No Games Toronto" group will distribute protest flyers and hold a rally today across from Varsity Stadium. "I don't think they stopped a bicycle," said Richardson of yesterday's non-event. "I'm not overly worried."

Today, the tour goes to Hamilton. By GO train. "We want to have a rail link between our village and the athletic stadium. We want to demonstrate how this could work," said Richardson, of the 68-km trip from the Don Lands. Once there, Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger and businessman David Braley, who helped launch the Pan Am drive, will show the Pan Am panel the McMaster football facility and where the 50-metre training pool would be located.

There's also a visit to the site of a $102-million track and field stadium and a 3,500-seat velodrome. But today, all they'll see is a rundown industrial area near the West Harbour. Here's hoping they have good imaginations. "Again," said Richardson, "it's another one of these look, feel things."

So, what does the committee think? Whatever it is, they weren't sharing it with the media yesterday. "It's been very collegial and positive," said Richardson. "We're very happy with where we're at."

Even if nobody can be certain where, exactly, "at" might be.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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