One of the first big reveals for Toronto’s Pan Am Games comes Saturday. At 2:30 p.m. at Canada Square at Harbourfront Centre, TO2015 organizers are announcing the relay’s inaugural torchbearer, who will carry the flame on its first 200-metre leg. The torch will change hands numerous times before Chris Hadfield arrives with the flame at the Distillery at 5 p.m. where Jasmine Denham will perform the first live performance of “Together We Are One,” the official song of the games.
From there, the torch and its “sister flames” will travel for the next 40 days to communities throughout Ontario and Canada. Although there are multiple flames, only one will be lit at a time. About 1,000 torches were produced, with a purchase price of $550 for those torchbearers who want to keep a memento. Some are still up for grabs.
TO2015 honoured a number of well-known Canadians by asking them to carry the flame, including:
Elvis Stojko, June 24, Richmond Hill: At 43, the two-time Olympic Silver medallist is still involved in his sport. Stojko performs during the fall and winter, regularly landing triple jumps, and delivers seminars to Canada’s national team for Skate Canada. But he says he doesn’t want to coach. Stojko has kept his competitive spirit alive racing go-karts at speeds of up to 130 km/h in cars an inch from the ground and says he’s wanted to race since he was a kid.
“For me this is an exciting time. It’s a stepping stone for me to something else. That’s where I get my competitive juices flying.” The Richmond Hill native continues to act and this summer has a small part in a skating movie that he is co-producing.
Carrying the torch: Stojko lived in Mexico for 12 years with his wife Gladys Orozco, a former Mexican national figure skating champion, and the pair attended some events at the Guadalajara Games in 2011. The couple moved to Richmond Hill last June and live just minutes from where Stojko grew up. “It’s really neat to be a part of this,” says the skater, who last competed in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Will he buy it? I think just carrying it will be enough, he says.
Dwayne De Rosario, July 5, Toronto: The Scarborough native and father of four just retired from Toronto FC after a stellar soccer career in MLS and overseas. De Rosario, 37, is now an ambassador for his former team, promoting the sport and creating a fan base often through youth community programs, where, he says, he’s “trying to find the next me. The next Canadian star.”
Carrying the torch: De Rosario represented Canada in soccer in the 1999 Pan Am Games when he was 19 and says to “represent your country at any level is a huge accomplishment that every kid dreams of.” On carrying the torch in his hometown, he says, “when I carry that torch, I carry it for a lot of kids who grew up in challenging environments. And that maybe didn’t have the outlet, didn’t have the opportunity, and didn’t have the resources. So I carry it for all those kids,” he says, as well as his friends and family.
Will he buy it? “If it was given to me I would definitely respect and honour it,” says De Rosario. But he doesn’t want to put a price on it. “For me it’s bigger than that,” he says. The Games give young athletes’ the chance to blossom, says De Rosario. “And I was one of those kids.”
Mustafa Ahmed, July 7, Toronto: The Regent Park native is no stranger to standing ovations for works such as “A Single Rose,” the poem he wrote and performed when he was 12. He stopped writing because he says “art wasn’t the primary dream for immigrant families.” Inspiration hit again at 16 with the city’s massive revitalization plans for his community. “People’s stories needed to be documented because everyone was leaving,” says Ahmed of the residents who were moved out to accommodate rebuilding. “Our central identity, which was Regent Park as we knew it, was going to change.”
Now 18, Ahmed recently completed a North American stadium tour with Free the Children and has been commissioned to write four pieces as the Pan Am Games poet laureate. He says he’ll illustrate the link between artists and athletes — “the risk tenacity, the power of imagination, our ability really. It’s about reaching full potential.”
Carrying the torch: “It’s a real honour,” says Ahmed who explains that he has been so caught up in his work that he didn’t realize it was being recognized by people. “This is the sort of recognition that motivates me to continue doing the work that I do.”
Will he buy it? The teenager is thinking about it. “I’d put it in my room.”
Eva Avila, July 8, Toronto: The former Canadian Idol champ may have a hard time keeping pace as she’ll have returned just two days earlier from a three-month gig at a luxury Hong Kong hotel. “I might still be jetlagged … so the afternoon might feel like the middle of the night for me, but it’s worth it.” The 28-year-old Toronto resident, who has two records to her credit and a newly released EP available on iTunes, recorded the Spanish version of “Together We Are One,” the official song of the Games.
Carrying the torch: With her Hong Kong contract, which called for six nightly performances a week, nearing completion, Avila will just make her relay date. But she says she’d have left early to carry the torch. “I would have tried to negotiate an early departure because that’s how much it meant to me to be a torchbearer,” she says. “I can’t miss this opportunity. I’m so grateful that all the dates aligned and that everything is perfect.”
Will she buy it? Avila says the torch represents “the honour and all the responsibility, and all the magic of the Pan Am Games,” as well as the “hope and the spirit and the energy of all the athletes.” Still, she doesn’t think she’ll buy it.
Amanda Martinez, July 8, Toronto: The Toronto native, named one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians in 2014, will be producing and hosting a series during the Games for CBC Sports to promote the city’s arts and culture scene. The singer, who graduated with a degree in biology and went on to receive an MBA from York University, began working in the corporate world before she left to pursue her dream. Martinez is working on an album and will perform at a number of events this month.
Carrying the torch: The singer’s father, Gustavo Martinez, and his brother Arturo, rode their bikes in 1956 from their native Mexico to Canada and settled here. “I feel like this is a proud moment for him, that he made his roots here. He came with nothing but $100. He put himself through school and learned the language,” she says. “This is a very proud moment for my family.”
Will she buy it? “It’s a huge honour. I was just really blown away to do that, and I have so much respect for the athletes that are going to be competing,” says Martinez. She is thinking of buying the torch for her father.