By Ian Burns
It was a full house at the Ontario Science Centre’s Weston Family Innovation Centre on Monday as dignitaries and athletes gathered at the unveiling of the torch and torchbearers for the Toronto 2015 PanAm/Parapan Am Games.
Those in attendance included Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and federal Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal, as well as Simon Whitfield, who won a gold medal in triathlon at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and will serve as a torchbearer.
“It’s one of those times that an image is more powerful than words, the passing of a flame, the lighting of a cauldron,” said Saad Rafi, CEO of TO2015, at the unveiling. “Those iconic moments define a games.”
The torch relay is scheduled to start on May 30 and last 41 days, concluding on July 10 during the Pan Am Games opening ceremony. The torch will visit over 130 communities.
Gosal told those gathered that the relay would inspire Canadians to get involved in sports and recreational activities.
“[It] will help produce healthy individuals, strong committees and even some Olympic and Paralympic athletes,” he said.
The flame will make its way to Canada after being lit in Mexico, where the 2011 Pan Am Games were held.
According to Pan Am organizers, the torch is made of aluminum, weighs 1.2 kg and its length is 65 cm. It can withstand winds of up to 70 km/h and has a burn time of up to 12 minutes.
“You can just feel the excitement building,” said Wynne at the event. “The torch relay gives people across the country a chance to really get into spirit of the games.”
Tory said he would not join Wynne, an avid jogger, during the relay.
“She runs 20 miles a day or something like that, but I only run for cover,” he said.
“Besides, I ran with her one time, and it didn’t work out too well for me,” he said in a joking reference to his 2007 provincial election loss to Wynne.
Monday’s event also featured appearances by individuals who will serve as torchbearers during the relay. Over 3,000 torchbearers will participate in the relay, according to TO2015 organizers.
Information about the torchbearers can be found at the Toronto 2015 website.