Pan Am Games open in Toronto, to yawns and groans

Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:54pm EDT
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By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto greeted the opening of the 2015 Pan Am Games with a mix of annoyance and indifference on Friday as concern about traffic, ticket sales and money spent weighed on a city that would have rather been hosting the Olympics.

The July 10-26 Pan Ams will be the largest multi-sport event held in Canada as nearly 7,000 athletes from across South and Central America, the Caribbean and North America compete in 36 sports.

But the Pan Ams lack the prestige of a Summer Olympics, which Toronto unsuccessfully bid for in 1996 and 2008, and the response of the locals in Canada's largest city shows it.

"I just hope the city makes a profit, that's all. It seems like every time there's an event like this, it ends up costing money," said retired Toronto businessman Joseph Cassar, 65, enjoying the sun a few blocks from the downtown stadium where the opening ceremonies were to be held later on Friday.

"I hope it puts Toronto on the map a bit. It's just the traffic I'm worried about."

Ticket sales have been slower than organizers hoped, with sellouts only for high-profile sports such as swimming and gymnastics. Plenty of seats were still on offer for newer or more obscure events, including roller-blade figure skating, wake boarding and bowling.

Pan Am Games Chairman David Peterson said about 850,000 of the 1.2 million tickets available had been sold and that 90 percent were expected to have been taken by the end of competition. Complaints about traffic and tickets are par for the course, he said.

"This always happens in every Games, Olympics or otherwise. It happened in London, it happened in Vancouver. But ... once the Games start, you can see all the positives wash out the negatives."   Continued...

Jul 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; A general view as visitors purchase tickets at a box office in preparation for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports