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The Pan Am Games Has Brought the City of Toronto to Life

07/12/2015 09:47 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT
Gary Pieters

I want to play in the World Game

I want to make it better than its ever been before

I want to play in the World Game

I want to make sure everybody knows the score

About using less, doing so much more

- John Denver - World Game Lyrics

When singer and songwriter John Denver wrote the song World Game, in the 1980s, little did he know that this song would sum up the hopes and dreams, the pride and the excitement of everyone who is involved with the Pan Am and Parapan Am games in the host city, Toronto.

In Toronto, this summer is all about the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games and the theme is United We Play! I am excited about Toronto being the host city and even more excited about living and commuting within minutes of most of the venues for the athletic and cultural events that are occurring.

Toronto is host to over 6,000 athletes from around 41 countries of the Americas and the Caribbean for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, along with their friends, families and officials, and the games have captivated the imagination, interest and pride of the Greater Toronto Area and beyond!

I believe that the activities over the past two years in preparation for hosting these games have been intense. The Toronto 2015 host board along with the municipal, provincial and federal government, along with the local and national sports bodies have had a tremendous task in coordinating operational, logistical, housing, transportation, safety, travel and events planning with numerous other partners from across Canada and around the world.

Visually and aesthetically, I have seen the city changed and there is activity everywhere. On a daily basis volunteers can be seen purposefully engaged in their routines; many visitors happily explore the city; contractors add finishing touches to event sites; roads that were closed for construction are now completed and re-opened; Union Station looks sleek and accessible; participants perform creatively and gracefully for the many ceremonies and presentations that are part of the official and unofficial events of the games; and the heightened presence of police and various law enforcement personnel around the city has confirmed the realization that Toronto is hosting one its biggest sporting and cultural event ever!

There has been numerous ticketed and non-ticketed activities to foster athletic and cultural engagement with the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

Toronto is Canada's most diverse city, with a motto that boasts "Diversity Our Strength."

In the Americas and the Caribbean regions, it is clear that Toronto has an important regional and global presence, and connection to each and every participating country in the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. Toronto has a large diaspora of residents in its population whose languages, dialects, ancestries or places of national origins spans that of the participating countries.

Each and every visitor from the Americas and the Caribbean can find a little bit of home in the Greater Toronto Area.

I have taken my bicycle and rode around the city to experience the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games as a resident of the city of Toronto and here are some of the people, places and things that have excited me so far:

United States Reception for #TeamUSA at the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games

On July 8th, 2015, I attended a reception hosted by the United States Embassy Ottawa and U.S. Consulate Toronto and as I moved around the venue, I was able to feel the positive energy and excitement of people who were there to usher in the Games! We were also able to toast the 239th anniversary of U.S. independence.

I look forward to attending more social and cultural events and making meaningful connections with people across the Americas and the Caribbean; and I look forward to seeing the diversity of the Americas and the Caribbean in full display during the Panam and Parapan Am Games.

Volunteers

If you are a resident, athlete, or visitor to Toronto, I am sure that by now you have seen them everywhere around Toronto, especially around the areas and venues of the Pan Am and Parapan Am games. They are the Orange Squads of smiling, friendly, and helpful volunteers -- the thousands of them that will showcase 'Toronto the Good!' Their roles during the Panam and Parapan Am games as ushers, screeners, drivers, social media experts, supervisors and hosts will be key to the success of the day-to-day operations of the games. I am glad that our volunteers are representative of all demographic age cohorts, cultures, genders, languages and nationalities. They are our city's ambassadors and VIPs to Canada and the world!

Canada House

On July 10th, I attended the opening of Canada House which is housed at the Toronto Hilton Hotel. Canada House is traditionally a home away from home lounge for Team Canada Athletes and their families and friends. I served as a volunteer at the Canada House in Beijing China during the 2008 Summer Olympics and I can relate to the importance of having a Canada House for the Pan Am and Parapan Am games to serve as a home away from home base for the 700 Canadian Athletes who are part of the #TeamCanada contingent!

The International Economic Forum of the Americas

The International Economic Forum of the Americas coincided with the Pan Am Games and there were delegates from across the Americas and the Caribbean at this conference looking ways to strengthen economic partnerships and improve prosperity for their citizens!

CN Tower Celebrates the Opening of the Pan Am Games With a Pyrotechnics Show

On the evening of July 10th, following the opening ceremonies inside the Pan Am Dome -- also known as the Rogers Centre and before that the Skydome -- there were fireworks at the top of the CN Tower to serenade the opening of the Pan Am and Parapan Am games. It was among the best of pyrotechnics shows that I have ever had the opportunity to witness! The CN Tower was able to share with the entire city and viewing world, the splendour of Toronto's skyline and some well coordinated and beautiful fireworks that animated the night sky across the GTA.

The games are here!

Panamania at CIBC Pan Am Park

On July 11th, I spent the afternoon at the CIBC Pan Am Park on the CNE grounds of exhibition place. It was the first day that the park opened and the weather was amazingly hot, the crowd was large, the entertainment and activities were interesting and plentiful and the venue is a nice compliment to the games venues for events occurring both at BMO field and at the Volleyball Courts!

Rugby Sevens

On July 11th, I attended the Rugby Sevens competition at the BMO Field. For the purpose of the Pan Am Games the CIBC Pan Am Park at Exhibition Stadium is using the acronym PAP EPS. There were quite a number of quick games in succession lasting at least 15 minutes in duration. I saw many teams on the field including Guyana, Argentina, Canada, The United States, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.

Some of the cheers were loud depending on which teams were on the field! However, regardless of the outcomes for the teams, it was a great day to be a spectator and the weather was also nice and sunny.

It will not be possible for me to attend many of the ticketed athletic events so it is nice to see that Team Canada has a Toronto 2015 Pan American Games Live Blog that brings to life the daily highlights from the various venues.

Gary Pieters is an Educator, Immediate Past President of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, a former member of the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board and a Blogger with Huffington Post.

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