It all began with a last-minute bid to host in 2009, and once the Games Cauldron is lit during tonight's opening ceremony, the 2015 Pan Am Games will finally be upon us.
While the organizers behind the event have been tight-lipped with details, they've let slip some juicy tidbits about what viewers can expect to see. With that in mind, here are five reasons to get excited about the Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony:
1. The fireworks should be epic
Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star
Many Toronto residents were shocked to see large plulmes of smoke billowing from near the top of the CN Tower Thursday evening. Some speculated on Twitter that the observation deck was on fire, but a Pan Am spokesperson later confirmed that the smoke came from fireworks that were set off as part of a dress rehearsal for Friday's event. Phew!
2. We may finally see the CN Tower BASE jumpers
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star
Speaking of the CN Tower, two BASE jumpers clad in Pan Am Toronto 2015 jumpsuits and holding torches were seen participating in a sanctioned jump from the iconic structure back in May. Pan Am officials offered little in the way of an explanation, only confirming that the stunt was part of a top-secret promotional video for the games.
With the ceremonies venue sitting right next to the CN Tower, one wonders whether this video has some role to play in the lighting of the Pan Am Cauldron a la James Bond skydiving with the Queen during the London Olympics opening ceremony. We'll just have to wait and see!
3. A performance two years in the making
Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com
Expectations are sky-high for the performance that Pan Am CEO Saad Rafi promised would be "breathtaking" and "unforgettable." Planning for the opening ceremony Cirque du Soleil production started in earnest in 2013, leaving just enough time for producers to sort out the logistical nightmare of recruiting, outfitting and rehearsing with 625 performers. The performance will likely play up the area's cultural diversity.
4. Mystery performers
Organizers have kept a tight seal on the roster of performers that will rock both the opening and closing ceremonies. Expect to see big time Canuck artists performing amidst a sea of illuminated smartphones trying to capture it all.
BONUS: Seeing the Canadian flag carried in
Bernard Weil/Toronto Star
The collective anxiety about traffic congestion, HOV lanes, and slow ticket sales that cast a pall on the games will, for the briefest moment, melt away as soon as canoeist Mark Oldershaw carries the Canadian flag into the ceremonies stadium. Expect to feel that lump in your throat as soon as Oldershaw leads Team Canada, 719 athletes strong, into the stadium. Should that swell of pride materialize as tears, just pretend you got something in your eye and enjoy the rest of the show!