I wasn’t initially going to write about the Pan Am games for my Toronto Series – sports really don’t interest me, and Torontonians don’t seem to be all that excited about them either. We spent $2.5B on these games (which is by far the highest amount spent by any hosting city), and a large number of tickets remain unsold! Hotel occupancy rates are much lower than expected. And let’s not even get started on the traffic that the HOV lanes are causing. We’re not excited, ok??
But then I changed my mind.
My good friend Jon has convinced me to care about the Pan Am games (at least enough to blog about them), and he’s convinced me why the rest of Toronto should too. Jon is a local Torontonian, living in the downtown core. He puts up with the endless construction and traffic every day. So when the Pan Am games were looming closer and closer, he figured the TTC would be crowded and slow, and traffic would be that much busier. But a walk around the city during the opening night of the games gave him a different perspective.
The Harbourfront, which has been heavily congested with construction for years, has been totally transformed! It has become a very pedestrian-friendly area, with cute restaurants and a new community type of feeling. For the duration of the games there’ll be two pop up structures which will stream the games for free. There is also a set-up with muskoka chairs for lounging, and a fantastic view of the CN tower. The CN tower has probably been instagrammed more times this past week than ever before, with its fantastic light shows and the incredible fireworks display on Friday night! Jon said he felt like he was a tourist, a visitor in his own city.
He went to Dundas Square and Nathan Philips Square, where the excitement was also palpable. There were free concerts and performances, and many people were just hanging out and having a good time with each other. He took a step back, and looked around as someone visiting Toronto for the first time. It was definitely something to be proud of. There were people of all ages and walks of life, and everyone looked like they were having FUN. Jon said the night made him realize just how much he takes the city for granted sometimes – and I am definitely guilty of this too.
The transformation for the Pan Am games has been great, but the most powerful, and intangible change, is the buzz and excitement in the air – which Toronto hasn’t felt in a very, very long time. There hasn’t been anything for the city to rally around – we’ve had two brutally long winters, (usually) poorly performing sports teams, Rob Ford (!!!). We’ve been under water for a little while now. But the positive energy our city has now is something we can be proud of. Finally, something for Torontonians to show off besides Drake lyrics! 🙂 I’m just kidding.
So let’s try to minimize the complaining, because we can share our city for a couple of weeks. Look beyond the fact that we’re trading at a deficit, and the traffic sucks, and try to enjoy the intangibles. Torontonians can be a little negative, and we should enjoy these good vibes while we can. This can make us feel like we have something to look forward to! Summer’s ending soon and the cold will be back (aaahhhh!). Even if the Pan Am games do suck, the renovations are going to stay. The TORONTO sign can be instagrammed forever! Union station is gorgeous. The Harbourfront is perfect. And we can enjoy it all. Until we start complaining again, about winter 🙂
And if you DO care about the sports themselves – get excited about that because we’ve won 51 medals! 22 GOLD! Wahoo!!
via BlogTO Flickr Pool
Last image from Global News