Athletes, not media, will decide whether Pan Ams...
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Jul 11, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Athletes, not media, will decide whether Pan Ams are successful

While there have been calls for the media to be more positive, the coverage will soon change because there will be real events to cover

OurWindsor.Ca

In the lead-up to any major Games, it is fair to say that most of the coverage is negative. In Vancouver, it was the lack of snow and a tragic death right before the games. In Sochi, it was the comical last-minute preparations. London, Rio, Beijing . . . if you look back, most Games start off with grumbling.

So Toronto and the HOV-lane apocalypse is par for the course. There was a nice summary of many of the issues, from ticket sales to the general lack of spirit, were in a New York Times article Thursday titled “In An Indifferent Toronto, Pan Am Games land with a thud

(Interestingly, when first published online — and bandied about Toronto Twitter — the initial headline described Toronto as “apathetic” as opposed to the softer “indifferent.”)

While there have been calls for positivity this week, it is probably too much to expect some sort of complete lovefest by the end of the Games. But the coverage will change because there will be real events to cover, and the sports will finally become the focus.

That’s what Scott Russell, the longtime CBC sports broadcaster and host of Pan Am Prime, the nightly live two-hour at 8 p.m., has seen happen during the many previous Games he has covered.

“I think that happens at any major Games. We hear all the negative sentiment going in and then, as soon as it happens, we go, ‘This is fantastic’,” Russell says. “To be able to have these in Toronto, in our backyard, the inspirational effect that they will have will be massive.”

This is the type of event where the CBC shines, reminding Canadians just how much they excel at covering amateur sport. There will a daily Pan Am Afternoon show from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Russell’s prime-time show and a nightly wrap up from 11:30 p.m.-12:30 p.m. The CBC will stream more than 660 hours of live sporting events on its website and the mobile app will feature results, statistics and more.

“We are not only the domestic broadcaster, but we are the host broadcaster. We’ll be providing the pictures and sounds to all of the Americas for these games,” Russell says. “There are all these young Canadians, more than 700 of them, that will compete for Canada and we believe they need to be showcased. Beyond Toronto, we need to tell the rest of the country their stories.”

While there are some who may never get past the fact that the Pan Ams are not the Olympics, the sheer size of these Games create issues — and also provide another reason to not take them lightly. Spread out over 17 communities, Toronto 2015 has the largest footprint of any multi-sport event. And with more than 6,500 athletes from 41 countries in 36 sports, these Pan Ams have almost three times as many participants as the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

And while Vancouver provided what Russell called “a watershed moment for high-performance athletic sports in Canada,” he believes the Pan Am Games offer a similar opportunity for summer sports.

“To see wonderful athletes like Damian Warner, the decathlete, or someone like Ryan Cochrane, who is one of the best swimmers in the world,” Russell says. “The Fab Four divers from Montreal have a chance to captivate their country.”

Then there is Andre De Grasse, the recent 100- and 200-metre NCAA sprint champion, a gold-medal hopeful at both distances with whom Russell strikes an almost protective tone.

“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a guy. To win an NCAA championship, it was wind-aided, albeit, but he ran 9.75. No Canadian has ever run that,” Russell sayd. “Now he comes home. He’s from Markham. He’s 20. Everybody expects him to deliver this record-setting performance at home. That is incredible pressure. But now here’s the key, if he comes up with it? Wow. What a moment.”

Can the Pan Am Games actually win everyone over? So far, success is being couched by the post-Games legacy, primarily the new facilities across the region. And there is already too much chatter about this being an Olympic bid audition. For the Pan Am Games to actually stand out, as with any of these events, it comes down to the athletes. Thankfully, it is finally their time in the spotlight.

Toronto Star

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