Canada’s minister of sport believes the Pan Am Games are a unique opportunity for Canadian amateur athletics to get mainstream recognition at home.
“In our country, we don’t appreciate younger athletes as much as we should,” Bal Gosal told a group of sports journalism students at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre on Carlaw Avenue, Tuesday.
The Pan Am Games will be held in Toronto and across southern Ontario July 10-26.
Gosal, the Conservative MP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, says the influx of 7,000 athletes from 41 countries participating in 36 different events will raise the profile of Canadian competitors as well as excite young athletes.
“Anytime you host a Games, it inspires a generation of Canadians,” Gosal said.
Gosal likened the opportunity to the emergence of tennis superstars Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard who have raised the profile of the game in Canada.
Gosal believes that the Pan Ams will have the same effect on amateur athletics and their competitions.
“National recognition raises the profile of amateur sports,” Gosal said.
Ontario hasn’t hosted an event of this scale since the British Empire Games in 1930 in Hamilton. The Pan Am Games have given Ontario an opportunity to develop new sports infrastructure to be used by athletes, and following the Games, the host communities.
“Ontario is lacking facilities,” said Gosal, in response to a question about why Quebec athletes are sometimes more successful than those from Ontario.
To make the Pan Am facilities sustainable after the Games, the federal government has created the Sports Legacy Fund, which will contribute $65 million to the operating and maintenance costs of these facilities, Gosal said.
With the national recognition of hosting the Pan Am Games, as well as the new infrastructure being developed, the question arises – could Toronto be in line to host a future Olympic Games?
“It’s always a possibly,” Gosal said. “The GTA is a prime place where you can host (the Olympics,)” he said, adding there have been no serious discussions about a possible bid.