Toronto Games aim to lure pan-American popularity

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 PM ET

GUADALAJARA - The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games people were clucking around Guadalajara on Thursday like the annoying rooster who lives in a backyard behind my hotel.

Toronto 2015 announced a sponsorship deal that makes CIBC the lead partner for the Games, and the TO2015 gang were all looking rather pleased with themselves.

Kipling Collegiate boy Ian Troop, the big cheese at Toronto 2015, was looking rather pleased with himself as well. But not exclusively because of the bank deal.

In an interview with Sun Media, the TO2015 CEO laid out what he feels will be The Making of the 2015 Games, and its not a bank sponsorship, its not FIBA agreeing to make the Toronto Games the 2016 Olympic basketball qualifier (though TO2015 is shooting for that), and its not even the idea of Hamilton city council agreeing on something.

What turned Troops crank is what he considers the ace up his sleeve, his secret weapon if you will, in guaranteeing that the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games will be a major success despite what a legion of naysayers believe.

Its his plan to strategically court every single South and Latin American community in the greater GTA area and get them to buy into the Games. He sees, for instance, representatives from the Chilean community meeting Team Chile when it arrives at Pearson Airport for the start of the 2015 Pan Am Games and then holding various receptions and dinners for the Chilean athletes throughout their stay in Toronto.

And he sees every South and Latin American community in Toronto doing the same thing the Brazilian community adopting the Brazilian athletes, the Colombian community adopting the Colombian athletes, etc.

What that will do, Troop said, is ensure that every game played at the Toronto 2015 Games will be an home game for somebody. And that, he again believes, will mean lots of tickets will be sold and that atmosphere at the Games will never wane.

Its sounds like a little thing, he said, but it could have major consequences.

Were burrowing our way into those groups with the idea of How do we work together to make this be a great event for you community?

And those meetings are already happening, he said, pointing out that his organization has contacted the various consulates around Toronto to get names of community leaders. Every country in the world has a major population living in southern Ontario. So we want to take advantage of that.

Thats nifty, but some would argue that such a plan would perpetuate the fear that the Toronto 2015 Pan Americans will feature home games for every country except Canada. You know how that works. Peru or El Salvador or some other national side drops by BMO Field to play Canada in soccer and 80% of the crowd cheers for Peru or El Salvador.

That happens all the time and Team Canada players resent it.

But Troop believes that wont be the case. He feels that, when Canada is playing some other team, the fans will come out in force for Canada.

Is that wishful thinking? Perhaps.

But one gets the impression that the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games people would rather have full houses of people cheering for Chile over Canada, as opposed to half full stadiums with nobody making any noise at all.

When youve got 46% of Toronto being born outside of Canada, we have to make this real for all Torontonians, for all southern Ontarians, which means we have to reach into the multicultural communities and get them to take ownership and participate in it, said Troop. It will be for the betterment of the Games.

Maybe it will save the Games.

Troop certainly isnt afraid to play the immigrant hand in selling the 2015 Games. One of the reasons TO2015 is planning on holding table tennis and badminton events in the Markham area is, well, figure it out. Table tennis and badminton are tremendously popular with the Chinese and Troop sees no reason not to take advantage of the fact that there is a large Chinese community in Markham.

Its like, if there was bocce ball in the Pan Am Games, no doubt TO2015 would slap the venue in Woodbridge.

You might say, I wouldnt walk across the street to watch badminton, said Bob Stellick, who does PR for TO2015. But a lot of people in Markham would walk across the street to watch it.


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