Toronto's best, says Lima

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

GUADALAJARA -- Toronto is the best pick to host the 2015 Pan Am Games.

It is in the best financial situation; it has the best facilities. So says Ricardo Mungi.

Ironically, he also is one of the Lima officials here fighting to prevent Toronto from winning today's vote.

Mungi is the Peruvian director of recreation and he says the Pan Am Games should be about more than who can show up with the fattest wallet.

"It's not a matter of (Lima being) better. It has to be about Olympic spirit. Personally, I think Toronto has everything. They have the budget. They have the facilities. Everything."

But, he says, Canada -- if not Toronto -- has already had two Pan American Games. Colombia, the other bidder, has also hosted a Games in Cali. It is simply time, he said, to look to a developing country.

"It's not fair for Toronto to have for a third time the Pan American Games," he says, playing loose with the GTA borders. "I went to Winnipeg. I played basketball in Cali, Colombia. Now I am dreaming of a Games to finally come to Lima, to my home country."

Mungi spent 20 years on the national basketball team, competing in three Pan Am Games. Before Toronto entered a bid, Lima was considered the favourite to get the Games. Late Wednesday night it came within a technicality of getting itself tossed out of the competition before a vote was even held.

Pan American Sports Organization president Mario Vazquez Rana threatened to disqualify Lima for offering all the Olympic committees of the Americas a free TV signal if selected as the host. TV rights are owned by PASO.

Rana appealed to both Toronto and Bogota whether they wanted to have Lima disqualified. Canadian Olympic Committee president Michael Chambers stood and told Rana that Lima should be allowed to stay in the competition.

Rana's show of power got an apology from Lima. But it finds itself in the position of David fighting a Goliath.

"In Lima, we have not completed all the facilities. Our challenge is to do that but we have the budget ... We need those facilities. The Games would bring them. It is a legacy for my country," said Mungi.

"That is the Olympic spirit. It doesn't matter if one country has more money. The Olympic spirit says that the same opportunities should come to everyone.

"We want the Games," Mungi said, "because it is our turn."

Peru has never hosted a multi-sport, international Games. It also has an identity problem.

"People believe Peru is all mountains and desert. We have that, but Lima is beautiful, on the Pacific coast and the weather is always good for sports."

Rosario Vivanco was the first Peruvian woman to earn a spot on the national team when she swam in Tokyo in 1964.

"This would be the first major event Peru has ever had. The country has gone through many changes the last 10 years from having guerrillas in the streets of the city to now when it is very calm."

It is renowned in South America for its food and it has superb museums featuring its Incan and Spanish history.

"Toronto is a rich city and Lima is not," said Vivanco, "but the city is transformed. Next year we will have a modern transit system, for instance."

Lima also has three stadiums that seat more than 60,000 each. Mungi said the government has purchased land to build an athletes' village.

Selecting Lima would not be New Delhi revisited. The Indian city was selected ahead of Hamilton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and has been unable to meet construction deadlines.

"No. No. No! That wouldn't happen. For sure we have the money," said Mungi. "It is a tremendous expense but with the budget we have guaranteed that we can make adequate facilities ... we have the support of the whole country."

Question is, will delegates look past the economics, to support Lima?

"I've met friends from old countries and it's been pleasant. We have a good time talking about old times," said Mungi, "but ..."

The thought goes unfinished. The answer is just hours away.

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COUNTDOWN

HOW PASO WILL VOTE

The Toronto Sun's Pan Am prognosticator and former International Olympic Committee member, Paul Henderson, provides his fearless predictions on the outcome of the Pan American Sports Organization vote in Guadalajara, Mexico, this afternoon:

- Total votes: 54.

- Total countries: 42.

- Total executives: 13.

- Votes needed to win: 50%+1 of those cast.

- Prediction for Round 1 of voting:

-- Toronto: 22.

-- Lima: 16.

-- Bogota: 12.

- (About four no-shows are expected).

- Toronto will need to shift four votes from Bogota to its column in Round 2 to win, by this prediction.

"It will be close," Henderson says.

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MAYOR TALK

WHAT WOULD A VICTORY FOR TORONTO'S BID FOR THE 2015 PAN AM GAMES MEAN FOR YOUR CITY?

JOHN GRAY

OSHAWA MAYOR

"It's an opportunity for our municipality, as well as other municipalities in the GTA, to showcase the talents, the quality of life we have. We'd love to play host and to be able to show to the world the quality of life we have.

"I think they'll find that we have first-class facilities."

DAMIAN GOULBOURNE

WELLAND MAYOR

"This would be an absolute kickstart to our flatwater sports centre. It would mean the world to us. We have a 7-km former canal in the middle of our city and we're a small town of 50,000. We don't have the funds to completely convert this into a flatwater training centre and so the Pan Am Games, if we're successful, would give us the money we need to truly turn this into a training facility for all of Canada to enjoy."

FRED EISENBERGER

HAMILTON MAYOR

"The Pan Am Games will provide a unique opportunity for Hamilton to renew major sport facilities, giving Hamiltonians a multi-purpose stadium, a 50- metre swimming pool, and an international-calibre velodrome to enjoy for generations to come. These developments will in turn inspire the development of the downtown and our waterfront in addition to providing an opportunity to upgrade to a rapid transportation system."

CAM JACKSON

BURLINGTON MAYOR

"The Pan Am and Parapan games will inspire our youth, transform amateur sport, and create a legacy of worldwide athletic excellence.

"We have a piece of the football -- which is soccer -- part of the puzzle and Burlington is the epicentre of soccer in Canada, which many people are unaware of. We have more kids per capita playing soccer in Burlington than anywhere else in North America."

DAVID MILLER

TORONTO MAYOR

"The Pan Am Games presents Toronto with an opportunity to not only host one of the world's premier sporting events, but to secure significant investments in sport and social infrastructure that will benefit the city, local athletes and indeed all Torontonians for decades to come. We will have improved public transit, modernized sports facilities and more affordable housing as a result of hosting the Games."

FRANK SCARPITTI

MARKHAM MAYOR

"A Pan Am victory would provide much needed sports facilities throughout the GTA, which would benefit our current athletes and future generations. It's also an opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world our multicultural Canada. We're very excited about the prospect of the Pan Am games."


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