TORONTO (Reuters) - A city that had been largely indifferent to the Pan American Games arrival did not want the party to end on Sunday, as Toronto bid a dazzling goodbye to the largest multi-sport event ever staged in Canada.
The mood was lifted by the prospects of an even bigger party in 2024 with Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Marcel Aubut earlier in the day officially kicking off a campaign to convince city officials to bid for the Summer Olympics.
“It is time to make it crystal clear. I am officially declaring that I will use the full power of my office to
lead and advocate for Toronto’s candidacy to hold the 2024 Olympic Games,” Aubut said during the Pan Am Games closing press conference. “This is it.”
For 16 days Toronto had a taste of the Olympic experience and ate it up with gusto, filling stadiums and arenas eager to be part of the Pan Am excitement.
More than one million tickets were sold as Canadian athletes gave locals plenty of reason to come out to cheer.
The United States, as they have at every Pan Am Games since 1955, finished at the top of medals table with 103 gold and 265 overall but this was Canada’s moment to shine, finishing second with a record 78 gold and 217 total medals.
Before the party moved into high gear there were a few housekeeping chores to get through including the lowering of Olympic and Pan Am flags and the handover to Lima, Peru, which will host the next Pan Am Games in 2019.
“All of us that were here can agree that Toronto and Ontario can be very proud with the way you hosted these amazing Games and you have every right to imagine and to dream of one day hosting the Olympic Games,” said Ivar Sisniega, vice-president of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), to a roar of cheers in the packed stadium.
“I now declare the 17th Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games officially closed and invite the youth of the Americas to convene in four years in Lima, Peru.”
After 16 days of tension packed competition the athletes from 41 countries were also ready to let loose, mixing together in a kaleidoscope of colors as they danced their way into the domed stadium to a thumping rock beat.
It was a closing ceremony that featured more pyrotechnics than protocol and after the moving extinguishing of the Pan Am cauldron the stadium was transformed into a massive house party until headliner Kanye West took the stage.
The American Grammy winning hip hop artist, who triggered one of the Games few controversies when he was chosen over a prominent Canadian act, looked to be a wrong choice.
Athletes streamed towards the exits during his set and the rapper was booed off the stage, throwing his microphone into the air after it appeared to go dead.
There were far bigger fireworks still to come, however, as the Toronto night sky was lit up with a spectacular light show bringing the curtain down on the extravaganza.
Editing by Larry Fine