By Tara Hatherly
METROLAND MEDIA GROUP
With the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games drawing closer, GTA residents are getting a chance to be an official part of the Games.
Organizers and participants of TO2015 gathered in downtown Toronto Tuesday, Jan. 29 to announce IGNITE, a new program that aims to bring residents together to make positive impacts on their communities, while also getting people excited for the Games.
“We’re looking for projects, programs and events that promote things like community sport, physical activity and recreation, healthy living, or Pan American cultures,” explained Rahul Bhardwaj, IGNITE’s honourary chairman.
“IGNITE initiatives should be strongly connected to the Games, and help us ignite the spirit to a celebration of sport and culture.”
Initiatives can take many forms, including community sports leagues, media projects, cultural festivals, parasport training camps and more.
“These games can be whatever you want them to be, these are the People’s Games, that means they belong to you,” Ian Troop, CEO of TO2015, told the crowd, which included community members and students from across Toronto.
“I challenge you to use these games as your springboard to create a legacy of better, healthier, more connected and more joyful communities.”
A first of its kind for Pan Am, the IGNITE program was modelled closely after the Inspired by London 2012 program that built excitement for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games by engaging an estimated 10 million people in more than 2,700 London 2012-themed programs and projects.
TO2015 organizers hope to see 500 IGNITE initiatives created throughout the greater Golden Horsehoe area before the Games start July 10, 2015, helping Pan Am leave a living and lasting local legacy.
Canadian boxer Mary Spencer, a decorated world and Pan American champion, spoke to the crowd about the power that sport and community programs have to make positive impacts on people’s lives. She will represent Canada at TO2015, where she’s looking forward to defending her gold medal win from the 2011 games.
“I want to hear Oh Canada playing when they slip that medal around my neck again,” she said, while encouraging people to embrace IGNITE and the Games.
“With the help of IGNITE, and all of you, this city is going to be buzzing, and it won’t be like anything you ever experienced before.”
More than 10,000 athletes from around the world will converge on the GTA for TO2015, competing in 51 different sports over two weeks.
“We are only 127 weeks to that flame being lit in July of 2015,” said Mr. Troop. “Each of you is a spark. Together we can create something amazing here in 2015. Together we can ignite the spirit through a celebration of sport and culture, and it’s up to us, we can make this game truly a tremendous, legendary event.”
For more information on IGNITE and how to get involved, visit www.toronto2015.org/ignite.