The time is at hand for Toronto. This weekend the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) and its evaluation committee come calling to see if the city and the Greater Golden Horseshoe have what it takes to host the 2015 Pan Am Games.
What will they see?
They will surely witness a vibrant, multicultural, population in the hub of the bid community and be impressed by a sophisticated and ambitious urban giant with the corporate support as well as infrastructure to make the Games a reality.
There is no question that Toronto is Canada’s premier professional sports city. When it comes to hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, auto racing and golf, Toronto has got it all. And with its desire to attract an NFL franchise, it ha a voracious appetite for North American pro sport.
It should be a slam-dunk.
Surely Toronto and its surrounding municipalities are more impressive than bid rivals in Columbia and Peru. But there is one outstanding weakness, one smouldering fire the Big Smoke must extinguish in order to prove it really wants to be a major international city of sport.
Toronto has a less-than-glorious track record when it comes to hosting Olympic-style events.
The last time was the ill-fated 1993 World Indoor Track and Field Championships at SkyDome. Canadian Bruny Surin won the sprint title, but attendance was abysmal. Aside from soccer’s FIFA U-20, which saw Toronto as one of six venues across the country, there’s been precious little else. This may have been a factor in the failed efforts to land the Olympics in 1996 and again in 2008.
Meantime, Hamilton has hosted the World Cycling Championships; Edmonton, the World Track and Field Championships; Montreal, the World Aquatics Championships; Vancouver, the World Triathlon Championships; Quebec City and Halifax shared the World Hockey Championships; and Calgary has hosted the World Figure Skating Championships.
With the Pan Am decision looming, Toronto can no longer remain aloof.
To be successful in its quest to host the Pan Am Games and eventually an Olympics, Canada’s biggest community must convince its doubters that it not only has the ambition to be a “world-class” sports city, but also that it has the will to make it happen.
– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.