Pan-Am-Mania?

Last week, mayor-elect, John Tory, gave his “State of the City Address,” and outlined seven key challenges that the city has to face head-on, notably: transit, gridlock, housing, infrastructure, basement flooding, poverty, and fiscal sustainability.

And then in a related interview, he commented on the 2015 Pan-Am Games, and told Torontonians to “get behind the games.”

In a bizarre, unintended, ironic kind of way, I can’t help but notice that almost all seven of his “challenges” have become more challenging, because of the Pan Am Games!

Oh, and in case you haven’t seen the promotional video, take a look below…

I have to say – I really admire this video.

It’s well fast-paced, well-produced, and makes a really, really boring event look interesting.

There are a few fallacies in the video, however.

I mean, how could Cuba take on Canada in baseball on Bay Street, when TTC streetcars are busy taking up two full lanes of traffic: one driving, and one picking up pedestrians?

And how come when the horses were jumping over parked cars, they didn’t accidentally bump into “Parking Cops” writing tickets on the morning of the 16th when cars are supposed to move to the other side of residential streets?

I also noticed that when the gymnast was doing her rhythmic routine on the rooftop of a building, there was no billboard from Pattison or CBS advertising one of the “Big Five” banks and how they can save you money you didn’t know you had.

As for the folks in the water, it looked like they were residents of Toronto Island trying to escape the tax-man…

What about those soccer players running through the woods?  What woods?  Aren’t any of the remaining green spaces in Toronto scheduled to be removed so the land can be sold to condominium developers?

I guess we could do this all day…

But I find some irony in John Tory’s “Seven Challenges,” given that some of them line up nicely with the Pan-Am Games.

1.  Transit.

Why don’t the athletes take transit, instead of being shuttled to and from their events, in special designated lanes that make it harder for tax-paying Torontonians to get to and from work and home?

2.  Gridlock

See above.  I’ve mentioned this before on this very blog: I absolutely REFUSE to keep out of those “designated lanes” for athletes, when I live here, I pay taxes here, and I never asked for these games.  I can’t wait to fight my ticket in court.

3.  Housing

Where are the athletes staying, again?  Right – in the special Village in the West Don Lands, built for this very purpose with a ton of government money.

4.  Infrastructure

Tory says the city has a $3.6 Billion backlog of repairs, and just as I mentioned above, I have to wonder how much money was spent on the “Games” when it could have been repurposed elsewhere.

5.  Basement Flooding

Just wait until that first errant discus, hammer, or shot-put comes through your basement window, and you will curse the Pan Am Games!

6.  Poverty

This isn’t applicable, and unlike #5, I can’t make a joke about it…

7.  Fiscal Sustainability

Toronto is at a major crossroads, and while we have a new mayor, and a new set of possibilities, the same challenges, problems, and obstacles remain.

In the midst of all of this, we’re holding a goddam spectacle that nobody wants, and while the old adage, “you can make numbers say anything you want” will apply, and somebody, somewhere, will tell us how much of a positive economic impact these games will have, I refuse to believe it.

These Pan Am Games will shut the city down for two weeks, as residents try to cope with the mayhem, and businesses are affected by the gridlock.  I’m sure somewhere, a long distance runner will purchase a smoothie from a local vendor, but I still don’t think the economic impact will be positive.

I only wish that when these games were awarded to Toronto in 2009, Toronto’s City Council could have truly “got behind the games,” as John Tory is asking us to do now, and started construction on subways, LRT’s, or even homeless people with rickshaw’s strapped to their backs, a la Cosmo Kramer’s idea in Seinfeld.

But alas, the Games were awarded, 3-4 people in Toronto jumped for joy, and life went on.  A “village” was planned in the swamp just west of the Don River, and that’s about all that’s transpired.

I know I’ve belly-ached about this before, but last week’s press about the event just rubbed me the wrong way.

John Tory is a politician, so he can’t exactly come out and diss the silly event that he inherited from a previous regime.  But his suggestion that we “get behind the games” is as hollow as the baton carried by the 4 x 100 metre relay runners.

What else is he supposed to say?

8 Comments

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  1. George says:

    We are dating the much uglier sibling of the person we really wanted to date all along. Consequently, we are in a loser relationship, going nowhere fast, and bringing happiness to no one. The good news is that this uglier sibling is costing us much less than the attractive one would cost us, so I guess you could say we dodged a bullet.

  2. Teegee says:

    Isn’t this a provincial thing, not a city thing?

  3. Jeremy says:

    Les, in the space of a single paragraph, you just argued both that there will be too few people coming to Toronto for the games and that there will be too many coming for our transportation system. So, should we just ban tourism in Toronto altogether, or do Pan Am tourists somehow cause more gridlock than others?

    1. Em says:

      Oh come on, stop trying to make it seem like Les is trying to ban tourism. Les is saying to few people who actually care about the Pan Am Games are coming, yet even people who don’t really care are coming and its going to cause a commotion.

  4. A Grant says:

    With a number of countries bowing out of the premier athletic competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics do the costs involved, one wonders how much longer minor events like the Pan-Am games can be expected to continue.

    With respect to the lanes, my understanding is that they will be open to anyone carpooling, not just athletes and the media. So effectively, you can still use “your” roads – so long as you have a passenger in the car. Maybe this “carrot” will encourage more folks to carpool after the games have ended. After all, a vehicle with a single driver occupies a significant amount of space and increases congestion, while contributing the same amount of costly wear and tear to our roads. The alternative is the “stick” – toll roads, congestion charges, and road space rationing.

  5. LeS says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. The Pan Am Games are going to a disaster. The only people who will travel to Toronto for the games are friends and family of the athletes, and while we may see some revenue from these tourists, it certainly won’t offset the money we’ve spent to prepare. The Provincial Government tells us to take public transit so we don’t get stuck on the DVP with reduced lanes, but the TTC certainly can’t handle increased ridership, so we’re going to be stuck in gridlock for a month. Most of the ticket sales were probably to the major sponsors (and sold to them at deep discounts), so I don’t think 75% of tickets sold is in any way reflective of actual interest in these games.

    The City and Province can spin this all they want, but I think most of us in the city know the games will be a disaster.

  6. Mike says:

    1&2. You’re welcome to use the “designated lanes” as long as you have the appropriate number of people in your vehicle (it’s either two or three), there are a number of these lanes in the city already. I love when vehicles with singles occupants complain about congestion and the “designated lanes”; I keep thinking that at any minute the light bulb will go off.

    3. The housing will be re purposed after the games, low-income housing, student residence and market priced condos that will be sold off, repaying the governments expense.

    4. Infrastructure. Well you can look at all the new features going into the Athletes Village and see what it will do for the surrounding areas like the Distillery District (Street Car, YMCA, grocery stores and other shops). As someone who works on Bay St. I appreciate the new link to Pearson, I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve had to call short because someone has to get a cab to the airport. I guess the money could have been used for repairs but are well really improving if we only just fix things?

    7. Tickets are almost sold out and 75% of the tickets sold out in the first week. I’m guessing there is a strong demand for the games.

    I get it, as you’ve stated a number of times in your blog, you live in a condo down near the Athletes Village and as a result this is going to be a major pain for you. But that’s life, as Realtor’s like to say, “location, location, location”. If you don’t want to live in the city and put up with all the hassles there are some great suburbs that you could move to (all pay higher property taxes as you’re no doubt aware). It kills me that people want to live in the heart of the city because its close to the action and then complain about how the action impacts their ability to go about day-to-day living. I think the Pan-Am games will leave the city with a great legacy for many years to come.

    1. Boris says:

      1.) The current HOV lanes exist in places that make sense for actual traffic flow (404 etc). The temporary lanes for the games are nonsensical. David’s point as to why they don;t take transit is an excellent one. I thought this was supposed to be a showcase for our transit? Why are we trying to have Union ready for the games then?

      3) Oh great. Repurposed housing, more government run slums that house criminals and future Olivia Chows. Just what this city needs, another Regent Park. Government has no business in allocating capital to business ventures because they are terrible at it. Let’s reinforce poor behaviour by subsidizing people who aren’t tax payers in congested areas. Right.

      4) Again, look at any city that has hosted the Olympics recently, where drug stores or shopping strips, remote train stations and roads etc were ‘installed’ for the event. Guess what – there is a reason they weren’t there before. No one wanted to invest the capital because they wouldn’t be economically feasible in the long term and generally weren’t required. A complete joke.

      7) This number is bullshit. Remember this?
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394064/London-2012-Olympics-Corporate-fat-cats-half-Games-tickets.html

      And then we will get the Ralph Wilson/Al Davis smoke and mirror game as well:
      http://sports.yahoo.com/news/bills-owner-buys-unsold-tickets-144751260–nfl.html

      No one is interested in these games. NO ONE. Wait until the TV market share ratings come out. I guarantee you more people will watch the Ontario Legislative Assembly Channel.

      So if you live in a ‘core’ are of the city, as a owner of property, and all of the rights that come along with that property as a taxpayer, why should you be subjected to this bullshit? This extends to idiotic parades and marches every single weekend.

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