Why is the building of a track and field facility for the 2015 Pan American Games in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario causing so much consternation?
Why should a professional football team — the Hamilton Tiger Cats — be allowed to determine where and what kind of stadium will be built? This is the age-old debate. What’s good for a professional sports franchise doesn’t necessarily equate with what’s beneficial for a municipality that loves sport.
The Pan American Games are going ahead.
Ontario won the right to host them based on a plan that included a modest stadium for athletics on Hamilton’s waterfront.
Organizers should stick to the plan.
This weekend the Canadian Track and Field Championships will be held at the University of Toronto. The best athletes in Canada will run, jump and throw in a smallish stadium that is state-of-the-art for its purpose.
It’s not supposed to be the home of the Toronto Argonauts.
Varsity Stadium is attached to an educational institution and is well-used by the community. It’s a $16-million track ideally designed for its purpose, much like its $20-million counterpart erected on the grounds of the Université de Moncton that just hosted the IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in the visionary province of New Brunswick.
No matter how you want to refer to them, they are centres of excellence where the youth of their respective, surrounding communities can learn the bedrock sport of track and field.
“Athletics is the foundation,” says Lamine Diack, the president of the IAAF. “Young people must first have the opportunity to run and jump and throw, then they can choose to stay with athletics or move to a more specialized sport.”
It makes sense. But first communities in this country must show a desire to serve youth and not solely the needs of professional sport.
“Tracks should be maintained,” says Diack. “The community should be invited to use them in harmony with other sports that are played in those stadiums.”
If Canada wants to be good in track and field at future Olympics and values a healthy population then it requires a commitment to the proper facilities.
The same goes for Pan Am organizers.
In other words, they must build a solid foundation regardless of what professional sports wants.