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City to host Pan Am 2015?

TORONTO - Toronto will find out Friday if it will be chosen to host the 2015 Pan Am Games, a win organizers say would bring new jobs, facilities and a little civic pride to Ontario's capital.

TORONTO - Toronto will find out Friday if it will be chosen to host the 2015 Pan Am Games, a win organizers say would bring new jobs, facilities and a little civic pride to Ontario's capital.

The team pushing to bring the Games to the province is confident it's done a good job selling the city, but knows anything can happen during the secret-ballot vote.

"The feedback we're getting is good but it ain't done yet," Bob Richardson, a senior adviser to the Toronto bid, said in a telephone interview from Guadalajara, Mexico.

"You never know in these competitions because they're tough, but we think we've done all the right things to date and it's up to the voters to decide."

The delegation travelling to Guadalajara is led by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and includes Toronto Mayor David Miller and bid chairman David Peterson, a former Ontario premier.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined an invitation to travel to Mexico for the decision, but Federal Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn is one of the delegates.

Toronto is competing against Lima, Peru, and Bogota, Colombia.

McGuinty, who has dismissed Opposition calls to stay in the province and oversee the rollout of the swine flu vaccine, said his time in Mexico would be spent championing Ontario's cause.

"I think from any objective perspective we have the strongest bid - we've got a really good shot at this and we'll do our very best to bring it home," McGuinty said Wednesday before leaving for Guadalajara.

"It sounds like we have a lot of support but you never know how people are going to vote when they're in the privacy of the voters' booth, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Like Peterson, McGuinty argues the bid is important because a win would give all levels of government involved a deadline for putting in place important infrastructure such as public transit.

It would also create modern amateur sport infrastructure. The plans include a velodrome for track cycling, an aquatics centre with two 50-metre pools and a dive tank, as well as a new stadium.

In all, there are than 50 venues planned for Ontario's Golden Horseshoe region - from Niagara Falls to Minden to Oshawa - including six new facilities.

"On a per capita basis in terms of competitive athletes on a national level, we have fallen considerably behind," said McGuinty.

"What I really want to do is extend the net a lot wider so that more kids from all backgrounds who have the talent and the desire will have the opportunity to participate in amateur sport."

The Pan American Sport Organization, which represents the 42 countries across the Caribbean and the Americas whose National Olympic Committees will determine the host for the 2015 Games, begins a three-day meeting Wednesday.

The host city will be announced at 6 p.m. EST Friday after a secret-ballot vote.

Each city has been hosting social events, attending meetings and rehearsing presentations for Friday - their last sales-pitch before the vote.

The Colombian delegation has even been handing out coffee, with the help of a man who looks a lot like the fictional character Juan Valdez.

Not the be outdone, Canada brought two Mounties along.

"They have Juan Valdez, we have the Mounties," Richardson said with a laugh.



"Each of the bid cities have a booth and I think people like to use the iconic figures from their countries."

Some have questioned the investment in the two-week Games, which includes $1.4 billion for the sporting event itself and $1 billion for an athletes' village - expected to be turned into a mixed-income neighbourhood serviced by transit.

The federal and provincial governments are each on the hook for 35 per cent of the $1.4 billion, or some $500 million each. Municipalities and private investors will pay the remaining $428.5 million.

But opposition to the Games has been muted, especially when compared to a campaign run by Bread Not Circuses against the 1996 Olympic bid.

Richardson admits that while there isn't much opposition, there also isn't much support for the games at home.

"We felt after the city had lost both the '96 and 2008 bid, there was some bid fatigue, and that it was important for us to focus on winning one and focus on getting the votes," he said.

"Should we win, we've got five or six years to explain everything to people."

A Toronto event - which the bid team hopes will be a celebration - will be hosted by deputy Ontario premier George Smitherman on Friday, along with federal Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Kent and deputy Toronto mayor Joe Pantalone.

The last edition of the Games was held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2007 and the next is scheduled to take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2011.

 
 
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