DSCN1905On July 11 and 12th, an exciting kickoff party was held for the Pan Am Games in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Ontario, marking one year to the start of the games. Toronto, a city of approximately of 2.8 million people, will be hosting the impressive Pan Am (July 10- 26) and Parapan Am Games (August 7 – 15) in the summer of 2015. Boasted to be the third largest international multi sport games in the world, it will bring over 7,000 athletes and coaches to the city and surrounding communities. This event will showcase some of the amazing athletes in the world and is set in the beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Toronto. Not sure what the Pan Am Games are? Let’s break it down a bit.

The Pan Am and the subsequent Parapan Am games, held every four years, takes place the summer before the Olympic Summer Games and involves over 41 countries. These powerful and determined athletes will gather from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean. They will use their training, agility and talent to compete in over 47 sports between the two games combined, which include events such as judo, badminton, football (soccer), archery, wheel chair basketball and various others. (A full listing of sporting events can be found HERE)

While the renowned games have been around for 64 years, Canada has only hosted them twice, in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1967 and 1999. This time around, with an estimated price tag of $2.5 billion dollars, the international sporting event will stretch outside of the Greater Toronto Area from the extensive canals of Welland to bustling Oshawa, Ontario. The strenuous events will take place in 16 different municipalities and includes over 30 venues, with Hamilton hosting the ever-popular soccer matches. So what does this mean for Toronto and it’s residents?

For most residents hosting an event on an international scale means that major roads, such as the Gardiner, and buildings will be under construction for the next year. However, this is also a chance to show off Ontario and it’s beauty. High Park, Center Island, Kensington Market and the Waterfront are just a few of the memorable sites within the robust city limits. Outside of the city, popular attractions such as Niagara Falls and the surrounding wine country, which is a 130 km southwest of Toronto, as well as the stunning northern Muskoka country, will be sure to see an influx in tourists.

Taking a building that was already in progress, the Pan Am Games is reported to be creating affordable housing for Toronto residents as the athlete’s village will be reconstructed after the games. The unique architecture of the buildings and intricate landscaping around it will provide a community within the city for future residents and George Brown College students. This along with other student initiatives shows the emphasis that the Ontario Government is placing on the integrity and the relationship that students can have with the city.

The Pan Am Games Association also negotiated a deal with the Ontario Government. Students who volunteer for the sporting events can receive a break on their OSAP payments, a reported one-year grace period. Toronto residents might have to deal with construction and delays for the preparation of the games but the economic and social impact of hosting such an event is only beneficial. The City of Toronto has released a set of initiatives that are to roll out in the upcoming year. They include various opportunities such as a beautiful 84 km biking/walking path, an extensive sport literacy development program and an expansion on the bike share program, amongst others.

One can also look at the Pan Am and Parapan Am games as a test for the city. As they are the first international sporting event that Toronto has ever hosted, it will pave the way for future events. While Toronto announced that it would not pursue a bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, there are plenty of other opportunities for the expanding city. It was recently proclaimed by Hockey Canada that Montreal, Quebec and Toronto would co-host the 2015 and 2017 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championships. Furthermore, the MLSE has expressed a heavy interest in bringing major hockey events such as the exciting return of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, as well as the Winter Classic, the All-Star Game and NHL draft to Toronto in a celebration of the Toronto Maple Leaf’s 100th anniversary in 2017. The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are highly anticipated events. These games are a chance to see and celebrate the talent and success of 7,000 incredible athletes, as well as the 20,000 volunteers it will take to make the multi- sporting events happen. They also are an opportunity for the world to see the splendor and uniqueness of Ontario. However, they are also a chance for Toronto to show the world that it is a place to remember, worthy of showcasing athletic talent on an international scale. The games are a gateway for Toronto to become an epicenter for future sporting events, a city renowned for not only it’s amazing attributes and loyal sports fans but also the success of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. Toronto will see you at the games.

Information on the OSAP benefits for Pan Am and Parapan Am Volunteers can be found HERE.

Information on buying tickets for Pan Am and Parapan Am Sporting Events or the Games themselves can be found at HERE.

More information on the City of Toronto’s initiatives for the games can be found HERE.