We don’t know how our athletes will do at the Pan American Games.
But we know how they will look: like ultrapatriotic hip hop stars ready to keep it real in bright reds and gold lettering, geometric insignias and white stripes as thick as lane markings. Soon, very soon if the dreams of organizers come true, our streets will become a kaleidoscope of half-zip hoodies and full-zip windbreakers. There will be logos inspired by the semicentennial of our national flag, and torso-splitting, colour-block active wear, possibly inspired by the nurses of Eastern Europe.
Red, white and black, this is the projected mien of Toronto this July.
That is, assuming we care about the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in time.
To nudge us along, the “grand unveiling” of Team Canada uniforms took place Wednesday inside the Glenn Gould Studio at the CBC building. The 30-minute presentation, delivered by retail and sports officials, included giddy speeches, TV ads projected on a big screen loud enough to drop a wildebeest and, if you listened past the noise, a subliminal plea for everyone to get excited already.
“Please get behind this collection,” said Marcel Aubut, president of Canadian Olympic Committee, addressing “the public,” though few civilians were in the seats.
“I cherish these pieces of clothing,” added Gaétan Tardif, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, regaling sponsors, partners, athletes and stone-faced media with his plans to retire his 2010 Vancouver Olympics hoodie.
“When you look good, you feel good,” noted Curt Harnett, the home side’s “chef de mission” and, based on the speed with which he moves and talks and blinks, a future pitchman for Red Bull.
Now organizers just need the rest of Canada to match his enthusiasm.
And they have T minus 72 days to make it happen.
Since Toronto was awarded the Pan Am Games six long years ago, the “reveals” have been few and far between. We know the official torch, with its yellow and orange pictograms, looks like it should contain an elixir, perhaps a 7-Eleven Slurpee.
We know the identity of the mascot, though on Wednesday there was no sign of Pachi the Porcupine. Given the dismal state of sports in this city, it’s possible he was in a nearby pub, drinking his furry face off with The Raptor and Carlton the Bear.
We also know bits about a bunch of stuff that seems less than awe-inspiring. You know, budget snafus and questionable expenses, construction delays (I’m looking at you, Hamilton) and nagging doubts about the long-term usability of new facilities (take a bow, Milton). We know that more than 6,000 athletes from 41 nations will descend on Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe this summer, which should do wonders for the already snarled traffic and the lineups at Starbucks.
But in this city, where the water system is fluoridated with apathy, what we know has mostly translated into chronic shrugging.
This is why Wednesday’s reveal of Team Canada merchandise, now available in select Hudson’s Bay stores, was such a crucial milestone. After so many abstractions, so many reasons to think of the Pan Am Games as still far off, seeing athletes strut across a stage in the Eleven Point Windbreaker ($140) or Warm Up Pants ($65) somehow twisted everything into focus.
For the first time, the Pan Am Games suddenly felt real. It’s like I tell my kids when they are protesting in the back seat en route to the dentist: “We are doing this. There is no turning back.”
Let’s be honest, for most of us squeezing our nonathletic limbs into nationalist clothing is the easiest form of sports patriotism. And this new Team Canada collection — including minimalist ball caps ($30) and a rally scarf ($15) inscribed with a battle cry to the world, “En Garde” — is easy to embrace, even if the finer points of wakeboarding or BMX cycling escape you.
You can just fake it in your Patriot Jacket ($95) or Patriot Polo ($65).
On one of the T-shirts revealed Wednesday, the hashtag #CANINSPIRE is emblazoned on the back. Organizers hope this message will spread across social media as the world turns its eyes toward Toronto.
But for now they’ll be happy if we can just get excited already.