Q&A: TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

In July 2015, Toronto, Canada will host the Pan American Games, followed by the Parapan Am Games in August that year. MEI’s editorial director Rachael Church-Sanders spoke to Ian Troop, CEO of the organising committee TO2015, to find out how preparations are going with less than two years to go.

What is your background/how did you end up in this industry?

“Sport has always been a large part of my life. I played football in university and was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL). I’ve also been passionate about developing sport at the grassroots level for as long as I can remember in places where I’ve lived and worked, including Warsaw, Cincinnati, Toronto and my hometown of Georgetown, Ontario.

Prior to coming onboard with TO2015, I spent more than two decades years in Mexico, Europe and North America at Procter & Gamble, ConAgra Foods and OMERS where I was part of a team that improved each businesses operation and created economic legacies in their respective areas of business.

When the opportunity arose with TO2015, I couldn’t turn it down. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity where I was able to combine my passion for developing sport and my business experience to be part of creating something extraordinary that will benefit our community economically, socially and athletically for generations to come.”

Please outline your role and responsibilities at Toronto 2015

“My role as CEO at TO2015 is to lead the charge to create Canada’s largest ever, international multi-sport competition and cultural festival in Toronto during the summer of 2015.

It’s my job to ensure that the organisation and our partners deliver on our commitments; that we are on time and on budget; and that the legacy we leave behind after the Games is felt for generations to come.

My goal is simply to deliver great Games in 2015 for our athletes, guests and all Canadians and to make Ontarians proud of what they have accomplished.”


How are preparations going for the event/is everything on schedule?

“We have some amazing momentum going and the coming months will see us make some important announcements, like our ticketing programme, volunteer callout, the torch relay route and ribbon-cuttings for our new world-class sport venues.

In October 2013, we hosted more than 350 delegates from international sport federations and the 41 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) from the Americas and Caribbean at the first-ever Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) General Assembly held in Toronto.

Although we have a lot of work left to do in the coming months, the feedback from our guests was overwhelmingly positive about our plans and vision for these Games. We are truly pushing to make these the best-ever Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

At the assembly, we continued to encourage the country delegations to bring their top athletes to our Games in 2015.

In fact, we reached a breakthrough compromise between PASO, the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) and TO2015 to ensure the region’s best aquatics athletes can come to our Games. The agreement enables us to avoid an overlap between the aquatics competition dates of the FINA 2015 World Championships and the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) also announced Curt Harnett, four-time Olympian and winner of three Olympic medals in cycling, as chef de mission for Team Canada at the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games, which the COC has promised will be their biggest and best-ever team.

The Royal Canadian Mint will be producing and designing our medals and Cirque du Soleil, Canada’s globally celebrated cultural icon, will create an original production for the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Pan Am Games. We expect to announce at least three more sponsors in the coming weeks —and more are waiting in the wings.

At this stage of the preparations, our biggest challenge is to continue to build on our momentum in engaging our communities in the Games, meeting and hopefully exceeding the expectations of the 41 NOCs and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), as well as ensuring we have the best people leading our efforts in the final two-year push to the Games.

Overall, we’re in great shape and the excitement is building in southern Ontario!”


What have the main challenges been in organizing an event this size so far?

“There are a lot of moving pieces in organising an event of this size, which lasts for six weeks from the start of the Pan Am Games on 10 July 2015 to the Closing Ceremony for the Parapan Am Games on 14 August 2015. Also keep in mind this is the largest Games ever hosted in Canada.

We’ll have 400 staff, 20,000+ volunteers and approximately 7,500 athletes from 41 countries and territories, as well as hundreds of dignitaries, officials and support staff.

They’ll be competing in 51 sports in more than 30 venues located in 15 municipalities spread out across southern Ontario.

Right now, with the support of our partners, we’re drilling down into our transportation and security plans, as well as finalising the sport schedule and developing our ticketing programme.

It’s a major undertaking but we have great staff with deep international multi-Games experience and a lot of enthusiasm in our communities. Everything is on schedule and we’re meeting the targets set by PASO and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).”


What are the key timelines between now and the event in terms of infrastructure/venue deadlines and test events etc.?

“We remain on schedule and have a more than C$50m positive variance in our C$674m capital infrastructure plans.

We opened our first upgraded venue on 10 July 2013 — marking the two-year countdown to the Pan Am Games. The Welland Pan Am Flatwater Centre then hosted its first international competitions just three weeks later!

The majority of our construction will be finished in July 2014, which includes CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House — our largest new build for the Games — as well as five other venues.

The remaining new and upgraded venues will be finished in the early fall of 2014, well ahead of the Games.

Our sport tests event period will run from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015. We’re targeting approximately 40 test events —the majority of which will be led and overseen by National Sport Federations in Canada — and have 12 fully confirmed to date. The remaining will be confirmed by the end of 2013.”


How is the event being funded?

“The overall budget for the TORONTO 2015 Games is C$1.441bn. The budget is composed of up to C$500m from the government of Canada, C$500m from the government of Ontario, along with C$288m from municipal governments, universities and venue owners and an estimated C$153m raised through sponsorships, ticketing and other revenue measures.”


How important will volunteers be for the success of the event?

“The 20,000-plus volunteers we’ll need in the summer of 2015 will be the welcoming face and backbone of these Games. Their importance can’t be overstated. This spirit of volunteerism and community camaraderie will be a wonderful legacy of the ‘People’s Games.’

Alongside TO2015 partner Chevrolet, we’ll launch our official call for volunteers in April 2014.

Opportunities will be available across the Greater Golden Horseshoe region for both the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, offering a unique opportunity to help develop skills across the region.

To support the multi-sport, multi-function nature of the Games, a wide range of roles will be available. Some positions may be specialised such as medical, while others may simply require a desire to pitch in: from transportation to event services and technology. To support our athletes and visitors, we’ll also require volunteers who speak French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Volunteers will be provided with a comprehensive training programme and we look forward to sharing more details on the programme at the launch.

For those looking to get involved now, pre-Games opportunities include community outreach activities and planning, as well as support for conferences and special events. Details are posted on the TO2015 website when available or subscribe for regular updates.”


How engaged/supportive have local media and residents been so far?

“Community engagement is growing. With every major announcement and event we host, awareness and excitement in the Games is building. The Toronto Star is also an Official Supplier of the Games and CBC/Radio-Canada is the Official Broadcaster.

For example, over the summer we hosted events in more than 10 communities to celebrate the two-year countdown to the Games that were attended by thousands of people and attracted lots of positive media coverage.

Another key element of our public engagement strategy is our mascot PACHI the Porcupine. So far, he has greeted more than 15,000 people since he was unveiled in July 2013. Our goal is for PACHI to make a thousand appearances and engage more than half a million people by the end of the Games.

Wherever we go, we’re also asked about volunteering at Games time. As I mentioned, we’ll need 20,000 plus volunteers. This is a great opportunity for young people, as well as seniors to feel a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and build their community’s spirit.

If you go to see a baseball game in Ajax or a soccer game in Hamilton, we want volunteers on the ground there who know and love the community, as well as the sport. That spirit is what will make these Games truly a success.”


How is social media being used to promote the event by organisers and/or by sponsors/commercial partners?

“Reaching out to potential spectators, athletes and residents of the Games region through social media is hugely important to make these Games truly the ‘People’s Games.’ Our strategy will be executed in four phases through our website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram:

1.)  Pre-Games awareness building

2.)  Amplify the Anticipation with 120 Days to Go

3.)  Capture the Moment at Games time

4.)  And, Invoke Nostalgia Post-Games

The content, which will be primarily aimed at the 18-28 years old demographic, will highlight employment/volunteer opportunities, sports fun and enthusiasm, mascot updates, TO2015 updates/announcements; and a behind-the-scenes peek at TO2015.”


What will the main legacies be for Toronto from hosting the event and indeed for Canada?

“The possibilities are endless when it comes to legacies from the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. That’s why we really want our communities to feel ownership of them. They can be whatever the community wants them to be.

Of course, one of the most visible legacies of the Games will be the number of world-class athletic facilities built for the Games that will serve a dual purpose: much-needed training facilities and competition sites for high-performance athletes in Canada and as community recreational facilities in southern Ontario.

For example: Canadian cyclists will finally have an indoor velodrome where they can train year round rather than traveling to California; aquatics athletes will have several new Olympic-sized swimming pools and new diving facilities; and athletics athletes will have several upgraded tracks and the new athletics stadium in Toronto.

Our artists and cultural communities will have a chance to shine at Games time on a regional and international stage and our communities will grow closer through volunteerism. All of this will build on Toronto’s international world-class reputation and the region’s confidence when it comes to hosting major events.”

Additional information