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15 surprises from the Pan Am Games

15 surprises from the Pan Am Games

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 18, 2015

The games are only half over, and already our eyebrows are getting a workout reacting to news of athletic triumphs and zippy celebrations.

1. The sign that stole our heart

Who knew seven big letters in multiple colours lit by LEDs would become an instant landmark? Mayor John Tory (open John Tory's policard) is, apparently, already planning to take that show on the road with a “TORONTO” sign victory tour.

2. The taste of First Nations cuisine

Chef David Wolfman, a Scarborough member of the Xaxli’p nation of B.C., has been operating a food truck on behalf of the Mississaugas of the New Credit — the official Host First Nation of the Games. The roving resto has been serving up “aboriginal fusion” cuisine such as venison kebabs and curried elk (for free!) throughout the games.

3. Mexico is a diving powerhouse

In the eight diving events, our NAFTA neighbours picked up 5 gold, 1 silver, and 3 bronze off the board.

4. People demanding more — and getting it

Before the whole thing started, some were skeptical of fan interest. But when things got underway, audiences demanded more coverage of events from the CBC, which added 17 more hours on weekday afternoons to its Games coverage on its existing news schedule (and its 650 hours of online streaming).

5. Who has time for sports with all the free big-name concerts?

Flaming Lips, The Roots, Stars, Jann Arden, Janelle Monáe, Death From Above 1979, A Tribe Called Red, Wyclef Jean, Serena Ryder, Jully Black, Lights. Just for starters. Then there’s the closer…

6. And all the art

There are installations along the new Pan Am Path trail network. There are performances at the Berkeley Street Theatre. There’s the Latin American “Sportmanship Under Surveillance” show at the Sur Gallery. Even out on Lake Ontario, there’s artwork from all 41 Pan Am nations projected onto the sails of boats. The whole city has become a gallery.

7. We’re #1

Canada entered the Pan Am games with optimistic podium plans. “We’re shooting to finish in the Top 2 in the medal count, but competition will be tough,” kayaker Adam van Koeverden told CBC at the start. At the halfway point, we’ve already passed our medal total from the last Games, and as of Friday afternoon we led the pack with 98 medals (38 golds).

8. People really want to watch Artistic Roller Skating

The sport was a surprise sell-out event.

9. And they really want to watch BMX, too

And track cycling, and water-skiing, wakeboarding, badminton, and equestrian events, other sold-out or near-sold out events. TO2015 media spokesman Kevin Dove says at this point, events featuring Canadians and medal finals are basically faint-hope things if you haven’t already got your tickets.

10. The shock of the CN Towering inferno

Smoke and a red flame-like glow emanating from the deck of the CN Tower on July 9 led many to think the city’s tallest freestanding structure was burning down. Not so…

11. Toronto looks pretty great when the construction hoardings are removed

Queens Quay, Union Station, Front St., the fountains on University Ave., the Athletes’ Village — everywhere you look, it seems the years of relentless construction ended at the same time and everything looks all sparkly and new. And pretty nice, really.

12. Donovan Bailey may be retired, but still makes highlights

The opening ceremonies featured the legendary Canadian sprinter appearing to base-jump off the CN Tower and parachute into the SkyDome (er, Roger Pan Am Ceremonies Thingamabuilding). Taped stunt or no, it was a Toronto child’s fantasy played out.

13. People really want to help

According to Toronto police Const. Craig Brister, who is working on security for the Games, Pan Am’s 23,000 volunteers represent the largest non-military deployment of volunteers in Canada’s history. It could have been even bigger: 60,000 people applied to help out.

14. Does the city feel kind of empty to you?

There are way more tourists around than usual, but there also seem to be far fewer … people. Is everyone at the cottage or something?

15. Nathan Phillips Square comes alive

The concrete expanse in front of City Hall, it turns out, is the perfect place for a concert, or a water ballet performance, or a victory party. The hub of the city government has also been the beating heart of Games celebrations so far, complete with that sign, patio space, a merchandise superstore and a giant swing set. It hasn’t been this exciting since Rob Ford (open Rob Ford's policard) was mayor. All that and there’s still half the Games to go, and then the Parapan Am Games to look forward to after that.

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