Does Scarborough need the Pan-Am Games?

Much attention has been drawn to Scarborough by the bid for the 2015 Pan-American Games. Toronto City Council promises only good things will come from them.

For instance, the province is now compelled to build the Scarborough-Malvern Light Rail Transit line. The University of Toronto will get an athletic complex. Sports facilities will be built in Scarborough. And an athletes’ village might be built in the area and possibly be earmarked for public housing.

But why must it take a sports event with second-rate athletes that no one watches, to prompt all these changes?

Scarborough’s population of over half a million is rising each year. The area is large and hard to navigate without a car. We’re desperate for better public transportation, since there aren’t enough routes and service is slow. Building those routes for the Games is a nice gesture that caters to foreign visitors and that just so happens to benefit us.

Mayor David Miller has told the Toronto Star the new sports facilities will be good for young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.


So the only distraction to disenchanted youths from poverty and crime is sports? And of course they all like to play sports? Seriously, Mr. Miller, they deserve more than that.

Physical activity is vital, especially with the high obesity rate, but does the university need two Olympic-size swimming pools? How many people will use them? U of T has a valley with hiking trails, a tennis court, and a lush, open, green space with endless possibilities for physical activity. Granted, its use is limited in the winter, but you can surely think of other ways to exercise as well. Wouldn’t you rather see the estimated $37.5 million the school is spending go toward supplementing tuition? Or how about building a more spacious library?

Ward 22 councillor Michael Walker is one of few to oppose the bid. He suggests spending the money on the city’s public housing, some of which are in “third-world” conditions. It’s morally corrupt to spend $1.4 billion on sports while peoples’ basic needs and rights are neglected.

It’s a kind gesture to convert the athletes’ village into public housing (which hasn’t been confirmed yet), but the problem is systemic and can’t be fixed with one new building. Disadvantaged neighbourhoods need stable public housing that isn’t infested with cockroaches.

We don’t have the Games yet, nor do we need them. Scarborough deserves to be more than an afterthought.