Few could match Marnie McBean’s enthusiasm when news first broke that Toronto was awarded the 2015 Pan American Games
The former Canadian rower and three-time Olympic gold medallist, who was also a 1999 Pan Ams champion in Winnipeg, is thrilled to finally see Toronto win its first major international sporting event.
“Toronto finally won something,” said a jubilant McBean from a city-run party on Queen’s Quay just after the Canadian city clinched the victory.
Ontario’s capital had previously failed in its bid for the 1996 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games, events that went to Atlanta and Beijing, respectively.
“These games are going to be bigger than the Olympics Vancouver will be hosting next year,” McBean told CityTV.
She went on to defend the calibre of the athletes at the Pan Ams, and does not see these Games as much of a downgrade from the big show.
“The Pan Am Games are the second-largest sporting event out there. For me, the level of competition is quite high.”
“In some sports the Pan Am competition is the highest level of competition and in other sports the Pan Ams are used as an Olympic qualifier.”
Most of all, this event will be a good test run for athletes who are looking ahead at the 2016 Olympic Games set for Rio de Jainero.
“For me personally, [the Pan Ams] were a really important place for us to test a lot of our systems, and to test the environment of a multi-sport camp. There are a lot of phenomenal athletes who compete at the Pan Ams.”
McBean is also excited about the new sports infrastructure that will be built as a result of the win.
Of the $2.4 billion that the city will pay for the Games, $1 billion will go toward the construction athletes’ village.
The provincial and federal government will each be on the hook for 35 per cent of the cost, while the remaining $428.5 million will be covered by private investors.
“Sports facilities and venues are very much like congregations. That’s where communities come from now,” she said.
“These congregations will be able to come and cheer for the athletes and watch them develop, so it becomes a healthy and spirited community.”
This win is a major victory for Ontario athletes who have often left the province in search of better sports complexes for their training.
“At the high end we have been losing far too many athletes to other provinces, and to other countries, because they are going to find better coaches and better facilities.”
“But now with better facilities you can draw in coaches, trainers, and you can have a magnet brining everybody in.”
McBean said that the manner in which Toronto won the Games was also impressive.
“It’s not a surprise that Toronto won the bid, it’s a surprise that we won on the first ballot,” she said.