By ALFONSO G. NACIANCENO
If life in our troubled world went on in the peace and harmony of the XVII Pan American Games, we would see less war, evil and ruthless ambition.
An event such as this, in which 83 Pan Am Games records were set, requires logistics that only those who make the art of organization their raison d’être are able to guide from start to finish.
Canada is proud today, because when it went out to raise the army of volunteers needed for various tasks, more than 60,000 people came forward to be selected, and of these only a third were chosen. These volunteers showed particular interest to ensure their country would shine in the eyes of the more than 6,000 visiting athletes. Take for example a woman of about 60 years of age at Toronto’s College Street subway exit, who loudly repeated to exiting passengers over and over the directions to the location where an exciting basketball game was being played that day.
But a display of adequate skills alone would not satisfy the expectations of the judges. How each sporting event unfolded also mattered to the implacable judge that was the public. The hosts built more than ten new facilities and 15 others were remodelled, to inspire the crowds that filled them. For example, in the battle for gold in women’s beach volleyball, the stands were flooded with sunlight and ensured spectators would not miss any detail of the finals.
The enthusiasm and courage of the athletes of the 41 participating countries likewise enhanced the event. The Brazilian kayak gold medalist spoke to the press of her dedication to the sport, despite competing for years with only one kidney. A five-time taekwondo world champion suffered a serious shoulder injury but stayed in the competition and his determination won him a bronze medal. And there was much, much more as the competition heated up, as the days left in [the] games shrank and the medals won served as a measure of the health of sport in the Americas.
Some nations had many medals; others barely managed any. All gave their best effort. No matter the cost, the athletes proudly represented their countries, an action which was applauded as they made their way to the stands at the opening ceremony. That night at a packed Rogers Centre stadium, the commitment of those who came to Toronto to give everything for their homeland was affirmed.
Today the comings and goings of thousands through the streets of Toronto have come to a close. The Pan American Games are over and they will become a part of a history that began in Buenos Aires 1951. Despite the flame being extinguished on the night of July 26, this city and its people will be remembered as impeccable hosts.
Granma, July 27, 2015