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.
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!).
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.
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).