Toronto launched an eye-popping fireworks display from the CN Tower on Sunday night to mark the end of the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
The show capped off two weeks of intense international competition and performances from artists who came to Toronto from across the Americas. Canada broke its Pan-Am medals record and came second to the USA in the overall medal count, winning 217 medals.
If you cared to spare the time, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the games, from the buzz around the sold-out opening ceremony to the endless free concerts from internationally-known musicians.
And the quality of the athletes on display was a pleasure to watch (think Kia Nurse leading the Canadian women’s basketball team to the gold medal over the USA, or Andre De Grasse’s victories in the 100m and 200m).
Still, ticket sales were sluggish in the lead-up to the games, prompting the New York Times to write about Toronto’s indifference to the Pan-American spectacle. But every event I tried to get tickets for was sold out or nearly so. Every concert I attended was packed and jumping.
And beyond Kanye West bringing his shine to Toronto (despite protest), the giant multi-coloured letters that spelled out the city’s name outside city hall became stars of the games and are here to stay.
Eventually, they’d announce that more than a million tickets were sold and the final count isn’t in yet. Now they want to bring the Summer Olympics to Toronto in 2024, an idea that’s sure to bring out detractors from all sides.
One thing I can say for the Pan-Ams is that they felt like amateur sport at its peak, like athletes training hard, playing hard and breaking through with great wins and great stories — not a bloated corporate spectacle filled with internal hypocrisies, the way the Olympics can often come across.
Plus, who doesn’t like to see the tallest building in the city become a giant, fireworks-spewing sparkler.