Premier quietly confident in 'very strong' T.O. bid

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

GUATALAJARA -- Now batting cleanup for Toronto's bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games -- Dalton McGuinty.

The Ontario premier arrived yesterday to press the flesh at a noon luncheon. He was a hit. He shut up.

"I have a simple but important request: Enjoy yourself. You are among friends," he told several thousand attendees at the Pan American Congress.

No sense getting between a delegate and the buffet table. Any last-minute cajoling and back-patting were left for private meetings he had planned last night as the bid committee looks to seal the 26 or 27 votes needed to land the Games.

"I think any objective assessment reveals we have a very strong bid. Now it's a matter of our personal relationships with the voters. It's not complicated," McGuinty said after the luncheon.

"There are 52 votes .... I've been on the phone the last few weeks from Toronto. Now I've got meetings with individuals to dot every I and cross every T so that we can say when it's done that we've done everything we needed to do."

He believes Toronto has a good chance, but gauging support in this community is an inexact science at best.

"It feels good, but you never know. Chicago said it felt good," warned McGuinty, alluding to that city's ill-fated Olympic bid.

On the surface, there can be smiles, handshakes and reassurances. The Pan American Sports Organization has passed rules to keep everything fair and above the table, but there are no rules to regulate what happens under it. Trying to press delegates to predict the vote is greeted with all the garrulousness of a sphinx.

McGuinty understands that what you see isn't always what you get.

"At the moment we're focusing on the people we believe are undecided. But you never know. According to the latest assessment, there are three bids and each of them can count on 30 votes in the first round," he said jokingly.

"So, either we're going to see another multiplication of the Lodes miracle here or something has to give. There's not a lot of reliable intelligence in the field. So you just have to make as many contacts and make as strong a pitch as you can."

The pitch is going to include an emphasis on "a safe, secure, clean, inviting and welcoming environment. That's what I'll be talking about. We'll deliver these games with precision and pride," McGuinty said.

Winning this bid will not benefit just the elite. It's about more than a couple of weeks of fun and games six years from now.

A winning bid would finally mean completion of a rail link between downtown and the airport, McGuinty said. It would mean infrastructure.

"I want to win this and use it so kids from all backgrounds have an opportunity to come into contact with amateur sport, with an amateur coach and have an opportunity to pursue it to the highest level. There aren't enough of those opportunities today in Ontario."

The Games will cost $2.4 billion, of which the province is on the hook for one-third.


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