Reporting from Pan Am Dome in Toronto, Canada – With the lighting of a pine cone inspired cauldron under, and fireworks blasting from the iconic CN Tower in Toronto, Canada has officially kicked off its largest sport festival ever, the Pan Am Games. The Opening Ceremony at the Pan Am Dome – a decked out Rogers Stadium configured in baseball mode – was produced by Canada’s famous Cirque du Soleil.
The cauldron was lit by Canadian basketball hero Steve Nash who is an eight-time NBA All-Star and a two-time recipient of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
The production was set as a stage show in the style Cirque du Soleil is known for, and with the retractable roof closed, it was a more intimate environment than the extravaganza these ceremonies typically are.
The celebration ran 30 minutes longer than the originally scheduled two-and-a-half hours but the upbeat segments and creative parade of nations made the time move quickly.
In recent days it has become clear that Toronto wants to pursue an Olympic Games, and what’s clearer is that opportunity is contingent on a successful Pan Am Games this month. It seems to be off to a good start.
Canadian fans were most excited about the dramatic torch entrance – Olympic Champion sprinter Donovan Bailey was passed the torch from atop the CN Tower then parachuted to the roof of the Pan Am Dome. He seemingly reappeared near the ceiling of the dome and was lowered to the floor.
Then later, the spectators’ cheers at the entrance of home Team Canada during the athletes’ parade were almost deafening.
It was loud enough for Toronto 2015 CEO Saad Rafi to declare that Canada sports fans are “as loud and as passionate as you’ll ever hear.”
But more importantly he remarked that Canada has a society that is “as welcoming and inclusive as you will ever see.”
He spoke about the rich diversity of the culture that makes Canada feel like home to many.
His remarks were closely aligned with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter.
Former Ontario Premier, Toronto 2015 bid Chair and Games Chair David Peterson was sitting two seats from IOC President Thomas Bach. Peterson was also involved in Toronto 2008 Olympic bid.
The two must have spoken about a Toronto 2024 Olympic bid, and an IOC insider has suggested that’s exactly what happened earlier in the week.
So, it seems the Pan Am Games are a test for Toronto – just as it was for Rio when that city hosted the 2007 Pan Am Games and later went on the win a 2016 Olympic bid.
It will test Toronto’s organizational and planning skills, the willingness of the volunteers, and the resolve of the city’s constituents.
Thursday in Montreal Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Marcel Aubut predicted a second place finish in the medals table for Canada (behind USA) and a good performance couldn’t hurt with an upcoming bid. At the opening of the new Canada House Aubut made sure he showed President Bach that the Olympic spirit is alive and well in Canada.
Bidders vying to host the 2024 Olympic Games have until September 15 to submit applications.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.