Naysayers be damned, Toronto is finally getting an international sporting event, the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Yes, taxpayers will be paying for the infrastructure and any cost overruns that will occur.
Yes, most games, whatever their ilk, tend to never be built on budget.
Here is the flip side though: improved transit, infrastructure, waterfront redevelopment, increased housing, improved sporting facilities and a boost to civic pride.
Sure, the Pan Am Games are not the Olympics or even the Commonwealth Games, they are C-level sporting event but it is a first for Toronto, finally, after many failed attempts at Olympics, World Expos and other international track meets.
The best things about these types of games are that they are catalysts for regeneration, improvement and establish fixed deadlines for things to get done by.
The legacy of these games for our crumbling city is worth it. Sure, we have budget shortfalls to contend with right now and thorough and proper due diligence and planning will be needed by 2015. But, if Toronto continues to profess itself to be a world-class city, hosting these games does help us get closer to that claim. However, what moves us up a few more notches higher on that scale is the improvements to transit and infrastructure we sorely need, let alone the waterfront regeneration entailed.
Think back to all the previous bids that were shot down. What has the legacy been FOR NOT hosting past Olympics or similar events?
That money we never ended up spending to make those games was never properly invested, because if it had, we would not have a transit system bulging at the seams, highways and roads crumbling, choking with traffic and band-aid maintenance and construction of this infrastructure along the way.
For every boondoggle of a games like the 1976 Montreal Olympics there are games like the 1998 Nagano Olympics or 1992 Barcelona Summer Games.
In particular, during a visit to Barcelona a few summers ago I was amazed at the city’s subway and transit system, modern public spaces and idyllic waterfront. The city’s old architecture and spots like Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia already made it beautiful but its modern functionality is a credit to the 1992 Summer Games, said many locals in conversation.
The same reflections were shared in speaking with people in Nagano, Japan. They credited the Winter Games held there as helping reconnect the city to a modern Japan, especially hubs like Osaka and Tokyo.
The benefits with the Pan Am score will extend to places like Hamilton and Markham as well, so the legacy will be lasting and large. Bring on the improvements and bring on the games.