Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe didn’t just win a sporting event when it was named host city for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

It will change the landscape of 16 municipalities from Niagara Falls to Minden to Oshawa. The Games will have a cultural as much as a sporting impact and it’s an economic booster shot.

A population ravaged by unemployment will see more than 14,000 construction jobs at almost 50 venues. The Games mean that Toronto will finally get its rail link to the airport and the West Don Lands will be transformed from wasteland to an athletes’ village and eventually into a mix of market value and low-income housing that has been so dear to the heart of Toronto Mayor David Miller.

“It’s terrific. A whole community will be built there. That’s good news for families who are hard-working and need a reasonably-priced place to live,” Miller said after Toronto beat rival bidders Bogota and Lima here Friday.

“Toronto is an incredible city but to be able to host an event like this puts our name into the world in a way that would be impossible otherwise.”

This was one of those rare moments that showed what politicians can accomplish when they put partisanship aside as Conservative Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn, Liberal Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Mayor Miller from the far left stood on a victory stage in Mexico, joined hands and together raised their arms and the dreams of a generation.

“We have not seen in this country a project of this sort with this kind of support across the board. It’s a good thing. With any luck this could be a mood changer around Toronto with people saying, ‘look, we’ve got something. Now, we can turn this into something really big,’ ” David Peterson, chairman of the bid committee said of the Games, the second-largest international multi-sport event next to the Olympics.

“This is only worth what you do with it. If you think big, this can be a mood changer for Hamilton, it can be a mood changer for Toronto, it can be a mood changer for Ontario.”

It was a victory that ended decades of disappointment in a province that hasn’t had a multi-sport international Games in more than 80 years. The Games could finally help Toronto — which had failed in three previous attempts to win international events — to shed its loser mentality, although some critics look at the current recession and question the wisdom of governments investing $1.4 billion in bringing together 42 countries and 7,000 athletes for two weeks.

“It’s never the wrong time to give ourselves a boost psychologically,” McGuinty. said. “Also, we’re talking about Games that will be held six years from now. I don’t believe the after-effects of this recession will linger that far out.

“What it does do is give us an end point to get that darn train built between the airport and downtown. It gives us a deadline to get some of that sport infrastructure — the pools, the tracks — built.”

Toronto will get a new aquatics centre with two 50-metre pools and a separate diving tank, plus the long-discussed and longer-delayed high-performance sports training facility at the U of T’s Scarborough campus. It matches one built in Calgary for the Olympics and will allow more elite amateur athletes to remain in Ontario.

When people look at the cost of the Games, they should also look at what they bring in, Lunn says.

“I look at this as an investment opportunity. Literally, we’re going to welcome people from across the Americas.

“Look at the Vancouver Olympics … an independent report last week said it had already brought $1 billion into Canada’s GDP (gross domestic profit). These are good investments. It’s money well spent.”


Hamilton will get a new stadium to replace the aged Ivor Wynne. Everything from equestrian facilities to mountain bike trails in Caledon and soccer fields in Burlington will be upgraded.

“This is going to have a great impact on generations in our province,” said former Olympian Charmaine Crooks and a long-time worker with the Canadian Olympic Committee. There’ll be a ripple effect throughout so many different communities … really we’re helping to build a great sports culture for all Canadian kids.”

Ontario, instead of being a wasteland, will become a magnet for amateur sport.

“This is bigger,” Lunn said, “than just the city of Toronto. Right now, Canada is shining.”

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