T.O. Pan Am bid waiting for PM

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games bid chairman David Peterson expressed confidence yesterday that his group has done everything possible to win the Games.

However, there may be a dark cloud looming over Toronto's bid, and it's something that Peterson and his committee have no control over.

The Toronto group has invited Prime Minister Stephen Harper to travel to Guadalajara, Mexico, on Nov. 6 for the vote. On that day, the 42 member countries of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) will meet to decide which city -- Toronto, Lima, Peru, or Bogota, Colombia -- will host the multi-sport event, a Games that will actually attract more athletes than the Winter Olympics in Vancouver this winter.

"We invited the Prime Minister and we'd love to have him. But he's a busy guy," Peterson told Sun Media yesterday. "But he knows about it and he has been great."

There's no guarantee that the presence of the Prime Minister will influence the PASO delegates or not, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Prime Minister Jean Chretien travelled to Moscow in 2001 when Toronto bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

However, Paul Henderson, a former International Olympic Committee member who led Toronto's strong bid for the 1996 Olympic Games, was adamant yesterday that Harper should be in Guadalajara for the vote, adding that a no-show could cost Toronto votes, especially if the leaders of Colombia and Peru attend, as he expects they will.

"He's got to be there or, in my opinion, he's turned his back on Toronto," Henderson said. "You don't want to give the people who are voting any reason not to vote for you. At the end of the day (his appearance) could mean two or three votes and if you look at most of these big deals recently, two or three votes one way or the other have made the difference.

"So I would hope he would go. And he should go," Henderson added.

Still, Peterson played down the fact that the PM has yet to accept an invitation to attend. In fact, the former Premier of Ontario praised the work of all levels of government in Toronto's bid.

"I do understand that Harper has a country to run," he said.

Peterson said that Gary Lunn, the federal Minister of State (for Sport), will be in Guadalajara, as will Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto mayor David Miller.

At this point in the bid process, Peterson said the focus is to concentrate on the few days leading up to the vote, as well as Toronto's final presentation on the day of the vote. Peterson said that Toronto will be the final presenter on Nov. 6, after Bogota and Lima, something that could work in their favour.

The bid chair described his mood yesterday as guardedly optimistic.

"Yeah, I feel good about it, but you're not there until you've won. So you can't let up," he said. "The thing that could kill us is any sense of smugness or not caring, or not working right until the last minute, or arrogance, or any of that.

"I feel good, but I'm not going to sleep soundly until we actually win," Peterson said, adding that he believes it's Toronto's time to win the right to host a major event.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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