TORONTO - The upcoming Pan Am Games in Toronto are still proving to be a windfall for dozens of executives involved in planning what's billed as the largest multi-sport event ever held in Canada.
While the bonus pool for executives on the TO2015 Games' organizing committee has been reduced from $7 million to $5.7 million, it's being split among fewer executives — 53 instead of 64.
Pan Am Games CEO Saad Rafi said he made some organizational changes that reduced the number of executives eligible for bonuses after he took over from Ian Troop, who got a $534,000 severance package when he left amid complaints about expenses.
Rafi said many of the officials with TO2015 travel from one large-scale sporting competition to another, and the so-called "completion incentives" are offered by organizers of most major events to keep staff from leaving early.
"They take place in a staggered way around the world, and 40 per cent of our staff are people who go from games to games," Rafi said in an interview. "If you lose these people, you lose a lot of experience that goes with them."
Pan Am executives paid as much as $250,000 are eligible for bonuses of up to 100 per cent of their annual pay when the Games are over — half for staying on the job and half conditional upon performance.
Progressive Conservative Pan Am critic Todd Smith called the bonuses "incredibly generous," adding he hopes some of them are denied, or at least reduced, because some of the venues, such as the soccer stadium in Hamilton, were not completed on schedule.
NDP Pan Am critic Paul Miller called the completion incentives "way overboard," and said he wasn't impressed by the $1.3-million cut in the executive bonus pool.
"That's like going from a 100-foot yacht to an 80-foot yacht," said Miller. "It's absolutely crazy."
Rafi, who is on secondment from his job as a deputy minister with the Ontario government, will be eligible for a bonus equal to his annual salary of $428,000 if the Games come in on schedule and on budget.
The province ordered TO2015 to tighten its expense rules in 2013 after some of its well-paid executives, including Troop, billed taxpayers for things like a 91-cent parking fee and $1.89 cup of tea.
The original $1.44-billion budget for the Games doesn't include the $700-million cost of building the athletes' village or $10 million for the provincial Pan Am secretariat.
Only 400,000 of the 1.4 million tickets for the Pan Am Games have been sold, but Rafi said those numbers change quickly as countries announce which athletes will be attending, and as the torch relay passes through Ontario communities.
"What we call our run rate of tickets on a daily basis has more than doubled since the torch relay started, and we're back in the market in a more aggressive way with both earned and paid media advertising," he said. "When people have a sense of who's going to be here ... that really helps to pump ticket sales."
Organizers expect about 250,000 visitors, along with 10,000 athletes from 41 countries, for the Pan Am Games, which run from July 10 to 26, and the Parapan Am Games from Aug. 7 to 15.
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