Forgive the indelicacy, but I have to say if I hear one more person in Toronto complain about the “problems” created by the Pan American Games, I am going to vomit. Ideally right on their shoes.
I’m not talking the financial problems that will, eventually arise, from some of the lavish expenditures made so far, because those will potentially be at least warranted (although the first person to complain about the Pan Am Games while riding the new rail line from Union Station to the airport should be punched in the mouth. That should actually be a law.)
No, I’m talking about the fact that in the largest city in the province, a place that Torontonians will tell you – ad nauseum – is world class, no one seems to be able to handle a fairly minor disruption for a few weeks without losing their marbles.
Toronto is about to put itself on display to the world and its residents can’t get their past the fact it might take them an extra few minutes to get to work every day. (Here’s a hint – LEAVE EARLIER.)
Even that wouldn’t be horribly offensive if Torontonians, at least as reflected by their media outlets, didn’t seem completely uninterested in being hospitable or welcoming to either the athletes of the Western Hemisphere generally or their own athletes in particular.
While so-called pundits seem to like to diss the event because it doesn’t have the stature of the Olympics, or world junior hockey championships, here’s a few facts and figures:
- Canada will be sending 720 athletes – almost three times the size of the 2012 London Olympic team – to compete in 36 sports. While it will give some athletes a quality tune up for 2016 Olympics, it will give others much needed international experience at a fraction of the cost.
- While the puny-dits diss the sports and the athletes, Canada’s team is a virtual who’s-who of Canada’s Olympic medal hopes including Rosie MacLennan, Canada’s lone gold medalist in London, in trampoline; Mark Oldershaw, Olympic bronze medalist in canoeing; mountain biker Catharine Pendrel; diving’s Fab Four of Roseline Filion, Jennifer Abel, Meaghan Benfeito and Pamela Ware, who’ve combined for a whopping 70 Olympic and international medals; Ryan Cochrane and Richard Weinberger, both Olympic medalists in swimming; and Patricia Bezzoubenko, who won six gold medals in rhythmic gymnastics at last summer’s Commonwealth Games. Not too shabby
- While much is being made about Usain Bolt not being on hand, the critics have missed the fact that that opens the door to more recognition for some outstanding Canadian track stars, including 20-year-old Andre De Grasse, who became the first Canadian in 16 years to go sub-10 seconds in the 100 metres. Also in track and field are Canadian pole vault record holder Shawnacy Barber, who is ranked fourth in the world; Damian Warner, world bronze medalist in the decathlon; world heptathlon silver medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton; and Olympic high jump bronze medalist Derek Drouin.
- For 10 sports – 16 events – the Pan Ams are direct qualifiers for the Rio Olympics. In men’s and women’s field hockey, and men’s water polo, for example, the gold medalist earns an automatic Olympic berth. So yes, there are a few things on the line.
- Oh, and there will be a Belleville lad on hand as well: Matt Mullins will play for Canada’s men’s rugby sevens, the defending Pan Am Games championship by the way. And the women’s rugby sevens will be tuning up for the Olympics in Rio – they have already qualified.
In all, more than 6,100 athletes from 41 countries of the Americas will compete at the Pan Ams — double the number of athletes that competed at the Vancouver Olympics.
That is world class. So far, while the facilities have been impressive, Toronto the Good as a whole hasn’t entirely measured up.
But there is still time. And I, for one, am confident the people of The Big Smoke can rise to the challenge and put on an event we can all be proud of.
Pundits be damned.
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