My Pan Am Volunteer Experience

Hi!! So…it’s been a while since our last post. We haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, nor have we been on any fantastical escapades. A legitimate excuse (combined with a bit of laziness) was to blame for the radio silence: the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The Pan Am games are held every four years, the year before the Summer Olympics. A good amount of Olympic athletes are represented at the games, and some of the sports even act as Olympic qualifiers. There are also a bunch of non-Olympic sports in the games (hello: Roller Figure Skating). For the Toronto 2015 games, there were over 7,000 athletes, 36 Pan Am and 15 Parapan Am sports, making these games the largest International multi-sporting event Canada has ever hosted.

Toronto City Hall

Toronto City Hall

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the games prior to moving to Toronto; I really was only aware of the Commonwealth Games outside of the Olympics. Our awareness perked up when in 2012 pianos (part of the Play Me, I’m Yours street piano project) were littered around the city as part of the art and cultural promotion of the games. Living downtown we had a few pianos within short walking distance and it was such a joy to come across a master brilliantly working the keys!

Not long after that I was at a presentation about the upgrades to the historic Union Station, Toronto’s equivalent to Grand Central Station. Most of the work was spurred on by the Games, and that was the first time I comprehended the size of the event as the presenter clearly laid out that these games were much larger than Vancouver’s Winter Olympics, with more sports, venues and people involved.

In 2013, just a couple of months before departing on our trip, a colleague encouraged me to sign up to be a volunteer for the Games. Recalling the impression that the 1988 Olympics had on me in my hometown, it only made sense for me to apply to be a part of the action.

My application was accepted and I was one of the lucky 23,000 (out of over 60,000 applicants!) chosen to be a volunteer – the largest call for volunteers in peacetime for Canada.

My role was at Pan Am Park where a few of the different sporting venues were held. While I wasn’t a volunteer for a specific sport, I was in the general park area directing spectators and essentially acting as the welcoming face of the games. And though I was exposed to the elements (and have a ridiculous farmer’s tan to show for it) I enjoyed the gig. Not only did I volunteer with friendly folks (and not just people from Toronto; I worked with volunteers from the North West Territories, Venezuela, Brazil and Scotland) but it was exciting to interact with visiting spectators and of course the home crowd (Go Canada!).Pan Am Volunteer

The park was also one of the Panamania venues. Panamania is the arts and cultural festival running straight through from the start of the Pan Am games to the end of the Parapan Games in August with tons of free concerts, performances and artistic showcases. While we plan to do a dedicated post on Panamania, it was easy to catch concerts and circus/acrobatic acts all through my volunteer shifts, making the time pass by quickly.

Muskoka Chair

Post-shift Muskoka chair shenanigans

There were a bunch of perks to being a volunteer; getting to see the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal (by Cirque de Soleil), discounts on merchandise and reward gifts throughout the games (including my very own Pachi). What I think I most enjoyed about it was that I got to see and be a part of the excitement, rather than complain of traffic woes or the cost of it all. I think Toronto is a world-class city and feel that there is so much to enjoy and discover here. Hopefully the world got a little taste of what this great place can offer (dramatic Kanye mic-toss and all).

Pan Am Opening Ceremonies

Before the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal

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    10 thoughts on “My Pan Am Volunteer Experience

      • I wish i knew you were at PAP, i was there almost every day. Big congrats to you and all the amazing volunteers, very impressed with how up beat you all were, regardless of time, day, weather!!! Are you doing Parapan am too?

        • What!? You were!? That’s nuts – I was the one in the orange shirt 😉 dang.
          Nope not doing parapan – it will be nice to have a break for this month!

          • Hahaha, day 1 I was meeting up with s/o so i thought i’d debut my awesome orange shirt since it’s so visible… oops

    1. I’m glad guys you are back here. As you mentioned, you have not posted anything for a while and I was wondering what happened :). Anyways, I have never heard of the Pan Am Games, but they sound very interesting and I am glad you enjoyed it. Another thing to check out for me :-). Enjoy your weekend guys! I’m heading to Ghent in few minutes :*!
      Agness recently posted…The Beauty of Katas Raj Temple and Lama Temple in BeijingMy Profile

      • I guess you must have experienced the games in Winnipeg – were they a big thing? I really hadn’t really paid attention until the games were here.

    2. Pingback: Panamania: A Musical Journey -

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