Chancellor Peterson at the Toronto Bid Conference for Pan Am 2015. Chancellor Peterson at the Toronto Bid Conference for Pan Am 2015.

On October 16, a panel of sports and community representatives discussed Toronto's bid for the 2015 Pan American Games and its effects on athletes, residents, and the economy, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Front Street.

No Games Toronto (NGT) is a grassroots coalition of groups opposed to the Pan Am bid including members of notable U of T student groups like the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students and the Graduate Student's Union. They were present outside the Royal York as discussions carried on inside.

Debates have been circling around whether the games should come to Toronto since the city formally launched its bid on October 2, 2008. The municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government have all endorsed Toronto's bid.

U of T Chancellor and former Premier of Ontario David Peterson, who is chairman of the bid committee, asserts that the economic activity spurred by the games will have a trickle-down effect. "I think we are going to actually accelerate our economic activity," he said. "I think we will see housing improvements...more jobs for the moms and dads that don't have jobs today."

Expenditure is a hotly contested issue. The budget is set at $1.43B. The Ontario and the federal governments would each give $500M, and the city of Toronto, along with its surrounding hosting partners and the games' revenue, would pay the balance. It is estimated, however, that the games will cost upwards of $2.4B. This includes the construction of a “village” of 8,500 units to house international athletes. Proponents of the bid argue the village could be used as low-income housing for Torontonians after the games have concluded.

NGT is concerned that the games will ultimately have a negative impact on the city, citing the probable increase in police presence (required for security) and the likelihood that the budget will become overblown.

NGT maintains that the increased police presence will be an affront to civil liberties, and that the entire budget for the games could be better spent on other initiatives, such as community housing or investment in post-secondary education.

For U of T in particular, NGT complains that students will have to foot the bill for expensive sports facilities which will host many of the games should they come to Toronto. Two new sports facilities will cost U of T roughly $220M and No Games VP Joeita Gupta points out that "they're meant to nurture high performance sports and most of us are not into high performance sports."

"The only way to ensure that long term employment opportunities are created is by investing in education, in colleges and universities," says Gupta. NGT does not believe in the trickle-down effect that proponents of the bid envision, but says that direct investment would serve the student population better overall.

Peterson responded, “I think we [the bid committee and NGT] have the same objectives in mind, but we have a different way of getting there. With any luck, we can make the world a better place with these games and really advance all those causes you so passionately believe in.”

Peterson will continue heavy lobbying to bring the games to Toronto. “Our bid budget is $10M to win this thing," he said, "and we will fight until the very last."

The cities of Bogotá, Colombia and Lima, Peru have also announced their candidacies for the games. The final decision for the host city will be announced on November 6, 2009. If Toronto is successful, the games will be held in July, 2015.

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