Time to Build Canada’s Legacy

Pan Ams look to transform communities and leave a lasting impression

Curt Harnett
Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

History is being made in Canada this summer. Our great country will host the biggest international multisport event ever held in Canada, with more than 8,500 athletes and coaches from the Americas. Talking about now or never, Toronto? It’s now!

Since being named Chef de Mission for Canada in October 2013, I have seen up close how passionate and dedicated our Canadian Olympic Committee’s Team is and how not one stone will be left unturned in helping our athletes reach the podium.

I have also come to learn the position of Chef de Mission is often misunderstood by the general public. No, I do not have a tall, white puffy hat and a knife to feed our athletes. But I do somewhat feed our athletes, not with delicious meals, but with knowledge and support. The role of Chef de Mission is to ensure that Canada’s athletes have everything they need to compete and perform at their best on the field of play, as well as having an amazing Pan Am Games experience.

You may not see it yet, but the TORONTO2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will transform the communities they touch and they will leave a tremendous legacy for everyone. As an athlete, back in the ’90s, I was quite vocal about the need for investment in high performance sport infrastructure in Canada. For me and my teammates, it was a training facility that we could access in our own backyard instead of travelling. This investment is imperative, not only to give high-performance athletes a place to train at home, but also to offer opportunities for participation in sports in this region. Today, I continue to voice the concern that without proper resources, our young athletes will not be able to reach their full potential. For some, they simply drop out of sports.

From July 10-26, 36 sport competitions are being held at 30 different venues across the Golden Horseshoe. The spirit of these Games has been truly injected into this region. Led by the province of Ontario and supported by the Government of Canada, these Games have brought an unprecedented investment to sport infrastructure in this region. Sixteen municipalities have been brought together and are building a lasting Games legacy across the region.

Look where we are right now. Canada has its very first Velodrome in Milton, where our national track cycling team will train and Olympic medallists will be born. We have four Olympic-size pools instead of one in this region for our swimmers and divers to train. That little girl who tries to swim across that 50-metre pool just may be dreaming of being an Olympian one day.

All these world-class sport venues will bring incredible opportunities to our athletes and for members of our community. Not only will our athletes compete against the best in the world at home, these sporting venues will bring the community together to promote a healthy lifestyle.

These Games will bring us unforgettable sporting moments. From local volunteers to ticket holders, fans will have the opportunity to engage with Canadian athletes and to be exposed to what true excellence entails. The legacy of these Games is not simply the world-class venues, but the next generation of youth who will be inspired by our athletes as they aim to be better, faster and stronger.

I often think back about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the impact they had on this country. Canadians demonstrated tremendous pride and support towards our athletes, regardless of their competition results. It gives me chills to think that Canadians will have another opportunity to cheer for their hometown heroes.

In July, 725 athletes — our largest sport team ever — after years of training and hard work, will give their all on the field of play and make their country proud. I hope Torontonians and Canadians from across the country will be in the venues to chant “En Garde” with me as we watch these super athletes show us that they are ready. It’s now or never!