Preparing for the Pan Am Games has had its “ups and downs.”
So says Pan Am Games chair and pitch man David Peterson, who has had to contend with firing former CEO Ian Troop, putting out fires associated with senior officials spending money inappropriately, and going cap in hand to the province for $74 million, bringing the operations budget to $760 million.
“It has had its ups and downs along the way but we are on track, we are in wonderful shape,” he told a Toronto Star editorial board meeting.
Peterson said the truth is “no one really wanted the games anyway,” but supporters were steadfast in their determination that it was a surmountable “management challenge.”
“It will be the only game in town for that period of time,” he said.
The biggest concern is out of the hands of TO2015 and that’s security, which along with transportation is the responsibility of the province. Security has been pegged at $239 million — twice the original estimate — and $61 million for transportations costs. The roughly $300 million is not factored into the $2.5 billion for the Games.
The Ontario Provincial Police, which is overseeing security, acknowledges that if there is a verifiable threat against the Pan Am Games that cost could easily balloon.
The traffic during the Games is also an unknown. Officials say the transportation plan for the summer games is contingent upon a 20-per-cent reduction in regular traffic. The massive month-long event is expected to draw 250,000 visitors to Toronto and area.
The transportation plans calls for Ontarians to get of their cars and take public transit, carpool, check the Games’ special traffic app before leaving home, or use the roughly 235 kilometres of temporary high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes made available during the games or stagger their work hours.
The most daunting task of all, Peterson said, may be getting people in southern Ontario enthusiastic about the games, especially Toronto.
A sizeable chunk of the $2.5 billion — about $1.1 billion — was spent on the athletes’ village in Toronto, which has been completed. After the Games, the village will become a mixed-use neighbourhood with affordable housing, new condominiums, a YMCA and a dormitory for George Brown College students.
New Democrat MPP Paul Miller (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek) said having seen the ongoing problems with the Hamilton soccer stadium he doesn’t believe the assurances that Peterson is handing out.
“I don’t buy that for a minute,” Miller said. “When the final bill comes in there will be a lot of people scrambling for places to hide. Trust me, this bill is going to huge when it is all said and done.”