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Toronto's 2015 Pan Am Games launch their logo

TORONTO - A red and green cartoon sports figure is the official logo of the 2015 Pan Am Games, which launched Wednesday with a street party in Toronto.

TORONTO - A red and green cartoon sports figure is the official logo of the 2015 Pan Am Games, which launched Wednesday with a street party in Toronto.

The curved figure looks like it's kicking a blue ball across the page. The numbers 20 and 15, written in white, are spread across the image.

The logo is being called the visual face of the Games. The theme of the sports event is "United We Play."

"The folks who designed it spent a lot of time looking at the art and the culture of Pan America, so you've got a logo which I think is fun, it's vibrant," said CEO Ian Troop.

The design draws on Aztec and Mayan cultures that first used rubber balls in sport, and as burnt offerings to deities, as early as 1600 BC.

"It's inspired by all the Pan American history of native people's art and architecture and sculpture, so we think we've got something very appropriate for Pan America that will be distinctive and people will really gravitate to."

Organizers hope the logo will score a goal with sponsors hungry to link their names to the Pan Games in July 2015 and the Parapan Games the following month.

Some companies have already expressed "significant" interest in becoming sponsors, especially ones involved in the Vancouver Olympics in February, said Troop.

The Toronto 2015 board will reach out to companies in October to discuss naming rights for venues and signs and the sponsorship of events at schools or multicultural programs. Forging partnerships with companies with ties to Latin America are of particular interest.

Hosting the Games will "reaffirm Toronto's position as a leading city of the Americas," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a videotaped statement played for the crowd at the street party.

Sports infrastructure built across the Greater Toronto Area will be a legacy of the Games, he said.

A new sense of pride, born during the Vancouver Olympics, has swept the country, he noted. It's up to all Canadians to keep the momentum going in the lead up to 2015, he added.

Held every four years, the Pan Am Games, which began in 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina have only been held in Canada twice before — both times in Winnipeg, in 1967 and 1999.

The last Games were in Rio de Janiero and the next ones are in Guadalajara, Mexico next year.

With 11,000 athletes from 42 countries competing, Troop said the Pan Am event is twice the size of the Winter Olympics. Only the Summer Olympics are bigger.

The torch relay and public parties engaged people in the Olympics, and the Pan Am Games wants to generate a similar buzz.

Troop would like a Pan Am festival in a public space, similar to the daily party in Vancouver's Robson Square where masses celebrated being Canadian during the Olympics.

At least 250,000 tourists will descend on southern Ontario for the Games. Seventeen municipalities from Welland to Oshawa will host 48 sports and events at more than 50 venues.

Moving all those athletes and spectators around on gridlocked highways in a timely manner for the Games will be a "challenge," admitted Troop.

Organizers will meet with transportation officials about that in the coming months.

The Toronto 2015 board meets Thursday to discuss venues, which are on track except for Hamilton, where time is running out to build a new 25,000-seat stadium for the Games and CFL Tiger-Cats, said Troop.

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