Final Thoughts on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games

During the first twenty minutes of episode 130 of my podcast, me and my friend Elvis discuss the 2015 Pan Am Games. Spoiler alert: we completely disagree. It all happens here if you've yet to listen.

As recently as early June, I was all set to hate these games. The term I used at the time was "underwhelmed". After all, the Pan Am Games aren't the Olympics, and at the time, I was stuck on that particular fact.

Then, I attended a torch relay. I had a great time, and when we were all cheering Natalie Spooner on as she ran in and lit the cauldron, I suddenly didn't care that these weren't the Olympics. I finally felt something beyond apathy, and it felt good.

I biked over to another torch relay the afternoon of the opening ceremony, and sat down with the family that night to watch Donovan Bailey base jump from the CN Tower onto the dome. By the time Steve Nash officially kicked things off, I was hooked.

It helped that my two older kids attended an early diving event at the new Aquatics Centre and Field House and raved about both the facility and the ambience. That's when I visited the schedule of events and made it a point to stream them live. That's right, I often had to stream, as many of my targeted events weren't televised live. That's another entry for another time, but streaming the events and Chromecasting them to my big screen was effortless and meant no ads, so I was happy.

Here's a taste of what I watched live:

I ended up watching much more than that, particularly in the athletics, but that was my "appointment viewing list". For the most part, it was thrilling, even with the disappointing disqualification in the 4x100m relay final.

Now that the Pan Am Games are over, I can sincerely admit that I'll miss them. It didn't matter to me that they weren't the Olympics. It was entertaining sport, the energy in this city was palpable, visits to Nathan Phillips Square and Pan Am Park were inspiring, and the thousands and thousands of volunteers filled me with pride.

What an amazing 16 days. Well done, Toronto.

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Comments (35 - click here to join in!)

Al The Royal Pain

The biggest thing I'll miss about these games is the traffic (that's right). I don't know whether it's because most people were on modified work schedules or working from home or taking the 2 weeks off, but for me coming into the city every morning south on the 400 was a dream. Going home in the evening was still a nightmare, but since I was getting in so early, I was able to leave early as well to make up for things.

Seriously though, although I didn't partake in any of the festivities (half the time I spent on vacation anyway) it did look like a great time and celebration and I wish I could have participated in it more. I was glued to the television for many of the events. It's a shame some people can't stop complaining long enough to enjoy what was. I'm sure there will be a bit of a hang over for the next few days and then the political debate will ramp up again and all the naysayers and I-told-you-soers will be out in full force when the final price tag comes in. I don't know if in the end it was all worth it, time will tell...but for a couple of weeks it was a city-wide party and a celebration of elite athletics. Maybe not from the world-over, but at least from our half of the planet and I think as a nation we did well.

July 27, 2015 @ 8:50 AM

Lynne

Let's back the Parapan Ams and cheer for them too. August 7 - 15
.
http://www.toronto2015.org/about-us/parapan-am-games

They are very fine athletes, maybe more so in their own ways. I can't imagine having the guts to do what they do with physical challenges. (In all honesty, I can't imagine doing the things able-bodied athletes do.)

Go Parapan Am Canada!

July 27, 2015 @ 9:54 AM

McNulty

I was ready to hate these games as well. I thought it could be a waste of money and it was a big mistake.

I changed my mind. I took my boys to Nathan Phillips Square and the ambience and feel was remarkable. People were there and they were having a good time. My youngest son enjoyed picking out the athletes as they walked around the city. I missed seeing some live events but my girlfriend attended a few and enjoyed herself. We both went to the closing ceremonies last night and had a good time.

Yes, most nations did not send their top athletes. Yes, it was not the Olympics. And I am fully aware that a majority of the world did not know these games happened. Hell, I would have to Google to see where they were four years ago. And I am sure I won't pay attention when they happen in Peru in four years.
But it was fun in Toronto and a once-in-a-lifetime event to see in our city. I have a few minor complaints about the handling of the games...they funneled us out of the Rogers Centre and closed a few exits. It was communicated very poorly and tens of thousands of people coming out at the same time made for very frustrating walk. Especially when the closed exit had security people watching the fireworks that I could not. The Dome was closed on a beautiful night and I missed the fireworks.

But overall if this is what the Olympics would be like then I would support it. I may skip out of the city for a portion of it but it would be fun.
However, the Rogers Centre wouldn't be a big enough venue for the games. We would need a bigger stadium. That's the catch.

July 27, 2015 @ 10:36 AM

Heather Murray

I'm so happy to read about someone admitting to being a convert! I wish more people had taken a chance and gone to an event or two. As a regular viewer and attendee of these types of sports (ie. not typical professional team sport like hockey and football), I always try to get friends to go to a couple of live events before judging them as "boring" or "unimportant." It is impossible to explain the excitement of watching elite athletes give their all; to see the years of training and effort poured into a single event that may last 10 seconds or 2 hours; that may end in complete joy or utter devastation. On top of that with these games we got to see our Canadian athletes soak up the energy and love from the Canadian crowd. At times it made you realize that for some of them, they had never heard a crowd cheer for them before. There is just no better or more positive an experience than "amateur" (ok, often not amateur) sports. Looking for role models for your kids? Kanye West or the 6,000+ men and women who spent two weeks in Toronto baring their soles and breaking their bodies for a chance to hear their national anthem and honour their country? Didn't go the Pan Am Games? It's not too late...the ParaPan Am Games, with more extraordinary men and women is just around the corner. Get out there and give it a try. You won't regret it!

July 27, 2015 @ 10:44 AM

Gump

I too changed my mind about the Games.
Took the family to handball, a sport I know nearly nothing about. We loved it! We sat with Uruguay supporters (the woman handball team, related coaches and trainers) and chanted strange things. The boys got a free foam handball and have been playing ever since.
The volunteers were numerous and helpful, the venue great, the transit to/from speedy. All in all a great time. We just wished we had bought tickets for the white water sports in Minden, the indoor cycling and others.

July 27, 2015 @ 11:31 AM

Hector

For a cost of $3 to $5 Billion, was it worth it?

July 27, 2015 @ 11:44 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Hector

The figure I've seen is 2.5 billion... not that I can appreciate the difference between that and 5.

In addition to the party, pride, inspiration, Toronto sign and exposure there are additional legacies:

  • We built 10 world class venues and renovated 15 more
  • We improved transit (Hamilton Go, Union Station link to Pearson)
  • The athlete’s village will become housing in previously unused space
  • So many volunteers got incredible experience
  • We proved we could host the 2024 Summer Olympics

Was it worth it? That's the great debate... I'm leaning toward yes.

July 27, 2015 @ 11:55 AM

Ben V

@ Gump: You want to be impressed go and take a look at the velodrome out in milton. Para Pan Am will have events there. That facility is incredible, and all thanks to the Pan Am games.

I had to laugh about all the people that whined and moaned about having to deal with an HOV lane the first day of Pan Am. Yet not a word when they were allowed to work from home several times after that.

I can't really say much more than what people wrote above. I was sceptical a year ago about Pan Am. Truth be told had I avoided the games out of some weird principal or the belief that no one cares about the Pan Am games I may have kept that scepticism. All of that drained away after the my first event.

Even people that didn't go to the games loved the opening and closing ceremonies. Another great example of people complaining for the sake of complaining is the whole Kanye thing. Who cares if it wasn't a Canadian artist that headlined. The world cup always has a theme song made and usually it's not written or performed by an artist native to the host country. Kanye brings in the dollars and cents as well as some focus on the Pan Am games. The whole thing that people were complaining about in the beginning was that no one knew what the games were..... Can't please anyone these days.

Congrats to the keyboard warriors that put their name on a petition for no other reason than they could.


But a serious job well done to our athletes and the volunteer staff. They were incredible and would make any Canadian proud. Except Argie of course.

July 27, 2015 @ 11:57 AM

Ben V

I'm with Toronto Mike. Great infrastructure comes at a price and in this country that only seems to come when a big sporting event is held. So 2.5 billion yeah it's a big price tag, but completely worth it.

July 27, 2015 @ 11:59 AM

McNulty

@ Hector

Even if the games cost $2.5 Billion and not a cent is recovered through the games or tax revenue, it will still cost the Ontario Taxpayer around $150 of your taxes. That's without a single dollar from ticket sales and other revenues.

We also got new buildings and transit as a result. It's not that bad.

July 27, 2015 @ 12:13 PM

Al The Royal Pain

@McNulty

If what you say is true and in the end it cost me as an individual taxpayer $150, then it was completely and utterly worth it. I'm just not confident that it's all it cost, but I'm more than willing to be proven wrong, because I really enjoyed the event...even if it was from the outside looking in.

July 27, 2015 @ 12:18 PM

McNulty

It's rough math. I didn't take into account any taxes on Corporations, just the citizens.

July 27, 2015 @ 12:21 PM

Gump

@Ben
Thanks for the tip! I would love to see, but the event starts at 2pm on Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th ($40 tickets). Note the best time for kids, as they are in camp. Too bad. Would love to see.

July 27, 2015 @ 2:03 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Regarding Kanye: One of the world's biggest acts stood on a stage with just a microphone and rocked through 9 of his hits with the house lights on and killed. Anyone in attendance lukewarm on the artist left a fan.

And... it didn't cost taxpayers a dime. Live Nation picked up the tab.

July 27, 2015 @ 2:18 PM

McNulty

Mike!

Don't ruin the fun for the naysayers! They want to blame Tory or Wynne for this. Read the Sun comments. They all claim the games lost money and ruined small business. They don't like facts.

July 27, 2015 @ 2:31 PM

Ben V

@ McNulty: The side of the political spectrum that Sun News caters to are known to hate facts. Hence the reason the long form consensus was done away with.

July 27, 2015 @ 2:42 PM

Argie

Well, I personally think its really cute how the left thoroughly embraced these games. You go, girls!

July 27, 2015 @ 3:24 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

Are you equating a perceived negative with being female?

July 27, 2015 @ 3:36 PM

Argie

@Mike
You should be a lawyer. Its just an expression. You know "you go girl." I'm cheering you all on.

Wow, sensitive, no?

July 27, 2015 @ 3:39 PM


Speysidephil

@mike

"Didn't cost taxpayers a dime"?
Maybe not but the taxpayers will end paying for the games through a variety of sneaky tax increases.
Please keep the Olympics far far away because that would even worse.
Oh I see Boston just pulled their 2024 Olympic Bid. Smart move.

July 27, 2015 @ 3:44 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Speysidephil

I was just talking about the cost of Kanye West's performance.

July 27, 2015 @ 3:46 PM

GUNTer

I'm somewhere in between.
I did go to an event (canoe/kayak) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didnt watch anything on tv and didnt really follow along - but i did enjoy hearing that our city was perceived as a great one. My friend was a volunteer out at the Ajax baseball place and told me a lot of cool stories about athletes from various countries - all positive feedback.
I am one of the people who sincerely hopes we bid and win for the Olympics. For me I would put up with HOV/tax increase/whatever if we could just host the Olympics. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!

July 27, 2015 @ 3:52 PM

McNulty

Yes, Argie. I enjoyed the games. Call me a lefty and call me a girl (if you believe that's some sort of veiled insult then I'll let that stand on its own).
I opposed the games. But they happened and since I pay a lot in taxes, I may as well enjoy them. And I did.

You must be a miserable person when you don't get your way.

July 27, 2015 @ 4:10 PM

Lorne

Was a at ConBravo in Hamilton this weekend-- a geeky convention, not unlike ComicCon or FanExpo. Lots and lots of people in costume.

The Mexican soccer team was also staying at the hotel that weekend, but no one realized it. Everyone thought they were just cosplaying a soccer stars from an Anime they'd never heard of. =)

Glad the traffic's gone. CBC's streaming was good, but they have a lot to learn about broadcasting events like these. They cut to commercial break during the closing ceremonies, and showed commercials instead of the cauldron turning off. Good jorb.

July 27, 2015 @ 4:54 PM

this guest

Saw a team, or some members of a team, of athletes on the streetcar with their coaches. Young, healthy, energetic. Having fun. Seeing the world.
Saw a lot of families from out of town. Looked like they were having fun.

No it doesn't change the % of children in poverty but something about the mood was upbeat. I don't
know if I am 'for' or 'against' games like this but the mood was summery and light-hearted.

July 27, 2015 @ 8:37 PM

Anonymous

I loved the Pan Am games. At first I was indifferent but once things got going, it was all quite exciting. I loved lots of the events, but my favourite memory has to be seeing all the cyclists on the trail. On the first Saturday I saw the Brazilian team on the Martin Goodman Trail and thought that was cool. But, then, over the next two weeks I saw Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil (again), even Canada! Free TTC for ticket holders was a great idea. I bought a Pacci mascot for $32 today. Way too expensive, but a souvenir from the games.

July 27, 2015 @ 11:59 PM

Argie

@McNulty
I'm not miserable - just realistic.

Speaking of realistic or unrealistic in your case, what's with your math? You're claiming all 16.7 million residents of Ontario are taxpayers? Try again and come to me with your numbers.

July 28, 2015 @ 9:06 AM

Argie

@Mike
You mentioned you chromecasted the streaming of some of the events. My question is, was the quality of the cast equal to watching it on the direct feed from CBC TV? Or was there is a slight difference?

July 28, 2015 @ 3:41 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

Chromecast simply played what was on my laptop on my big screen. No deterioration of quality there at all.

But the source material, the actual feed from CBC, wasn't as HD as the TV feed. I'm not sure if that was a setting on my side or simply a limitation of the feed.

July 28, 2015 @ 3:53 PM

Argie

@Mike
Ok, thnx.

I find when I connect an HDMi cable from my laptop to the TV, there's always a lagging/stuttering in the video (audio is fine) especially when the camera pans. Its clear and in HDTV but the lagging sucks. This is why I'm hoping Chromecast would eliminate that problem.

July 28, 2015 @ 4:12 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

I love it. My kids use it primarily with YouTube and Netflix and both look great with no lag. I've been using it to watch Shameless via Shomi on the TV without the digital cable box.

July 28, 2015 @ 4:15 PM

Christos

@ Toronto Mike,

"Ready for the Olympics"?? I wasn't a fan of the Pan Am games but I can appreciate that people at least embraced them and enjoyed them. But the Olympics are an exercise in corruption. The sad reality is that professional sports are infected by rich men in suits who don't actually care about sport but only filling their own pockets.

I love soccer, and am an unabashed fan (club and international teams). But if the FIFA World Cup ever came to Canada (Mens), I would be mixed in feelings. On the one hand, the atmosphere is amazing and the event itself is unrivalled. On the flip side, all countries that have hosted this event are still dealing with major debt and unused venues. The Olympics might be even worse. The sheer cost, infrastructure demands and chaos this generates would impact Torontonians for generations. And what for?

If the cause were noble, I could at least warm to the idea. But politicians, activists, media personalities and even corporations and public organizations have adopted this "mantra" over the last 10 years that Toronto needs to "up" it's international profile. I find it's such a common theme in radio and television discussions, political debates, etc... this idea that Toronto is somehow some crappy backwater that needs worldwide validation. It's a bit sickening to be honest. I've always loved this city and don't care what outsiders think, Torontonians don't need to get "cred" from other parts of the world.

I understand tourism and investment, but even in that sense, very little investment money actually ends up in the pocket of the common folks. It's all just a new means to help the wealthy individuals and corporations piggy-back off of this city and get more cash.

Personally, I'm more interested in building better infrastructure, improving living conditions and preserving parks and greenspace than caring about our "international profile". Most of the "high profile" cities are huge disappointments anyways. New York, London, and even Paris (sorry), are hugely overrated when compared to the English and French countryside.

If the Olympics do come, there is definitely a short-term positive, but the long-term consequences will be far-reaching.

Cheers.

July 28, 2015 @ 11:01 PM

Rick C in Oakville

Have to admit I was in the naysayers camp to start with, but daughter and her friends embraced all the celebration and went to the torch ceremonies etc. I purposely planned my last couple of weeks to be either out of town or on vacation.
Like Al only time will tell if the cost would be worth it.
An Olympic bid, where runaway costs are a given, I am not sure is worthwhile. Skydome was a monumental expense, if we needed a 80,000 seat venue for the Olympics, not sure where it would go. I think the Pan ams were the right event and size for Toronto to host successfully .

July 29, 2015 @ 7:41 AM

Argie

@Christos
Agree 100%. Well stated.

July 29, 2015 @ 8:35 AM

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