Pan Am Games seen as possibly setting the stage for a Toronto Olympics bid
Jul 3 10:47 AM ET More from Richard Warnica
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungMayor John Tory, walking with his wife Barbara Hackett during Toronto’s Pride Parade on Sunday, said the Pan Am Games have helped set deadlines for progress.
Several prominent Torontonians see the upcoming Pan Am Games as a dry run for a possible Olympic bid — including Mayor John Tory.
In an interview with the National Post, Tory praised the Pan Am Games for bringing much-needed infrastructure to Toronto and suggested future games could do even more.
“Whether it’s the Olympics or the Pan Am Games or these kind of things, they open on a given day and you have to be ready,” he said. “The train to the airport … wouldn’t be running yet if the Pan Am Games weren’t happening.”
Tory wouldn’t commit to anything specific, saying he’d be guided by how “the overall Pan Am story goes.”
“But if you said to me, ‘Do I believe these international games are useful?’
“Yes I do.”
Tyler Anderson/NP/FilesDeputy Mayor Glenn De Baeremaeker: A "reluctant convert" to the Olympic idea.
Toronto has tried and failed to bring the summer Olympics home twice before, in 1996 and 2008. The head of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Marcel Aubet, recently told the Toronto Star the city is primed to make another bid.
“My view is this country should look at the Summer Games as a priority and there’s not any other city in the country other than Toronto that could offer the site to do this,” Aubet told the newspaper.
Recent changes to Olympic bid rules, meanwhile, mean many of the facilities Ontario built for the Pan Am Games could be reused for a future Olympics, said Bob Richardson, the well-connected organizer behind Toronto’s Pan Am bid.
“Sochi was a wake-up call in terms of cost,” he said. “I think it’s a much more flexible proposition now.”
Richardson, who co-chaired Tory’s successful mayoral campaign, said the city’s priority for now should be on the Pan Am Games, which open on July 10. “We haven’t done anything for 80 years,” he said. “Let’s get this one right before we start worrying about the next one.”
Deputy Mayor Glenn De Baeremaeker, though, said he’s already become a “reluctant convert” to the Olympic idea.
“As much as I hate to admit it, I think the answer is yes,” he said when asked if he’d support an Olympic bid.
De Baeremaeker believes the Olympics would guarantee a vast investment in Toronto infrastructure. “For better or for worse, these international events do seem to be the trigger that makes us build things,” he said.
De Baeremaeker said he’d personally push for projects like the downtown relief subway line — an idea mooted in Toronto for decades — to be included in an Olympic proposal.
“It’s a sad state of affairs that it takes a special event to make sure we get good transit,” he said.
In the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Vancouver region saw vast infrastructure spending. Long-delayed projects that included a new highway to Whistler, a rail link to the airport and a convention centre were all rushed to completion, largely with provincial and federal funds.
“I honestly think that if you align your legacies with real problems that a host has, a region has, you can do an incredible job with the amount of money that seems available from other levels of government,” said Robert VanWynsberghe, a University of British Columbia professor who studied the financial legacy of the Games for the Canadian Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.
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Toronto councillors mulled over a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, but the economic development committee rejected the idea last year. The city has until Sept. 15 to reverse that decision and, with the National Olympic Committee’s support, put its name forward to the IOC.
Despite reports of wide apathy in the city and complaints of pending traffic chaos during the 16-day Pan Am Games, Tory said they’ve already been a success in terms of what they’ve brought the city, including the Union Pearson Express service and the new Scarborough aquatic centre.
“I do believe that’s one of the reasons you apply for these international events,” he said. “They set deadlines.”