By: Natalie Stoberman (Originally published October 2, 2014)
Another Pan Am Games milestone was held in the Eaton Centre to announce details on the torch relay on Wednesday.
Honourary torchbearer Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield was chosen to kick off the relay as the first torch bearer. Organizers say Hadfield has been been carrying a torch for Canada his entire career and was an obvious choice for the Pan Am Games. He will be leading 3,000 volunteers and Canadian athletes on the flame’s journey across the country. Anyone over 13 years old that is a Canadian citizen or legal permanent resident can apply online at toronto2015.org/torch-relay.
The relay will begin on May 30 after the traditional lighting ceremony in Mexico at the Pyramid of the Sun at the Teotihuacan Pyramids. This will be the first time the Pan American flame will travel across Canada and will stop in 180 communities and five major Canadian cities historically tied to multi-sport games. The flame is expected to rack up 5,000 km on the road and 15,000 km in the air.
The torch relay is expected to be a direct reflection on the massive spectrum of the games. Fulvio Martinez, Pan Am Coordinator, Communications & Media Relations, said this will be the largest multi-sport games on Canadian soil for a few reasons. “The number sports, number of venues and number of athletes competing are larger than even the Olympic Games in Vancouver,” Martinez said. According to an official games overview, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics hosted about 7,000 athletes, coaches and officials at nine venues for 20 sports. The 2012 London Games held over double the amount of participants and officials for 46 sports at 40 venues in comparison. Next summer Toronto is slated to host 10,000 athletes, coaches and officials from 41 countries playing 51 sports in over 30 venues.
A large part of the size and significance of these games lies in the fact that 19 Pan Am and all 15 Parapan Am sports are 2016 Olympic qualifiers for Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Simply put, Martinez said “you have to be here if you want to be in Rio.” Thus, Martinez explained the Canadian Olympic Committee will be sending its largest delegation of athletes to exceed high expectations and take advantage of competing on home soil.
“The Canadian Pan Am team is expected to finish top five in medal standings, and the Parapan Am team to finish in the top three,” Martinez said.