Panamania: Pan Am Games Part 2
While the race itself at Pan Am Games was really thrilling, all of the events surrounding the rest of the games was really awesome too. I met some amazing people, saw some awesome events, and really saw Toronto as a city get together and celebrate sport.
The Pan Am Village is situated on what once was tent city, the West Don Lands. An area long forgotten and abandoned it was an underutilized part of Toronto. When Toronto won the bid it was natural place to revitalize and use as the athletes village (I once upon a time worked for a construction company that installed the water main for the village! I learned there that I hate pile driving!).
That underutilized area of Toronto became my home-away-from-away during the Pan Am Games. And it was amazing. Team Canada had their own building, one that will become a residence for George Brown. We had an athletes lounge, cold tubs, physio and medical on site, and the dining hall was just across the street.
The dining hall was amazing. Under a big white tent it really represented Toronto. With a cold salad bar down the middle, with access on either side, there were food stations named after areas of Toronto on the west-side of the tent. Hippy salads of Kensington, Asian infusion for Spadina, Italian for Little Italy, BBQ for the St. Lawrence Market and street food in the TTC Street car. As a foodie, I was super impressed with all they had to offer us.
The village also had a games room, an internet lounge, a hair and nail salon, coffee bar, and amazing places to just sit and chill with friends.
I don’t think I could have asked for better roommates. We did a great job at taking care of each other, we laughed a lot together, we ate a lot of chocolate together and we made sure we respected each other before our big races.
This was my first senior national team and I was a little unsure about how I might fit in. I am older than many of my teammates, I kind of came out of nowhere, and I train in Toronto with varsity athletes. The group was the most amazing group of people. Everyone was so accepting of myself, and some other newbies.
But really we are all middle distance and distance runners and have many of the same characteristics. We came to Canada house to watch races, we went up to the track when we could, but we always knew we were cheering for each other.
The race was up at York University in a brand new facility. The old York track, the one that runs east-west was left as the warm up track. The new stadium was built in the north-south direction, because if you’ve ever raced the old stadium it was like running in a wind tunnel down the back stretch.
Unfortunately for most of the games the prevailing west winds failed us and we had an unseasonably cool week, due to a strong north wind. That meant that once again the back stretch at the York track was menacing.
The track was amazing. It was fast. The stadium around it made you feel like you were being hugged. It was not so overwhelmingly huge to intimidate you. And you felt like you could make a connection with the fans.
There was a lot of negative press about The Games prior to the start. The projected traffic. The busy transit system. The city would be a grid lock, the residents would be ignored and all that would matter were the athletes.
What really happened? After the opening ceremonies, the city embraced the games. It’s like everyone wanted to see what was happening. Oh and traffic in the city was not affected.
Toronto put on a great show, from the concerts and Panamania events. The restaurants and hotels were thrilled to be so busy. And many of the Toronto outdoor areas, i.e. Distillery, were a buzz with people enjoying the athletes and the games.
My Friends and Family
What can I say? They were of course amazing. It was weird to be in my home city but I soaked up as much of the village as I could. My friends and family gave me the space I needed to enjoy the games but were there when I needed them.
The night of the race they were amazing. I think from almost every point in the stadium I could hear someone calling my name.
The legacy of these games is not just the venues, which were so well designed to be utilized within existing infrastructure systems. The legacy is also the kindness of the athletes and the people of Toronto. Knowing we can manage a big games from traffic, to people, to events. And showing the world that Toronto and the GTA is a really beautiful and awesome place to visit.