TORONTO – One of the biggest measures of success of the 2015 Pan American Games will be how the home team fares.
Canada’s chances got a bit better Wednesday.
The Canadian Olympic Committee announced a one-time $2.6-million contribution to Canadian teams competing at the 2015 Pan Ams in Toronto.
“When Canada hosted Vancouver 2010 (Olympics), we showed the world what it means to be Canadian — we like to play, but we also like to win,” COC president Marcel Aubut told at news conference at the University of Toronto. “This is both an immense privilege and responsibility at the same time.
“As the host nation, all eyes of the Americas and the whole world will be on us, we have to deliver the best. Expectations — because it’s Canada, because it’s Toronto — are very high. Canada will truly be able to put our best team forward on the field of play.”
The funding is part of the COC’s recently announced investment of almost $100 million for Olympic sports over the next four years.
Aubut has promised a series of more detailed announcements across the country to flesh out where the money will be spent. But he has said the funds — 98 per cent of which comes from the private sector — will be part of the 2013 to 2016 high-performance action plan for athletes, coaches and national sport federations.
Canada could field a team of 1,000 athletes, coaches and support staff at the 2015 Games, Aubut said.
“Every athlete who can compete will compete, nobody will be left alone, nobody excluded,” he said.
Canada had 492 athletes at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico — the country’s second largest Pan Am team after the 1999 Games in Winnipeg.
Donna Vakalis, a modern pentathlete from Toronto and member of the London Olympic team, said she’ll cherish the opportunity to compete in a hometown Games.
“There’s a special alchemy that every athlete knows of being part of a hometown team, and this is an incredible unique experience for so many of our athletes to participate,” Vakalis said. “This (financial) support will amplify that special magic, part of that magic of course is financial support in ensuring a great performance in the hometown Games to the hometown team.”
Vakalis said the support for athletes at the Pan Ams could translate to better performances at the Rio Olympics a year later.
“This is an incredible value in two ways as an athlete, and I know we’ll be taking all that experience gained here in Toronto and bringing it to bear in the upcoming (Rio) Games,” she said.
The Pan Am Games will be held July 10 to 26, 2015.