Countdown Clock: Two Years to Go Until Toronto Hosts Largest Parapan Am Games Ever Held!

Celebrations include celebrity wheelchair basketball game in Toronto, formal ceremony and sport demonstrations of judo, boccia and sitting volleyball in Whitby

Sir Philip Craven, president of International Paralympic Committee, to visit Toronto next week

TORONTO, Aug. 7, 2013 /CNW/ - Famed Canadian wheelchair basketball star Richard (Bear) Peter will lead a celebrity pickup game today in downtown Toronto to celebrate the two-year countdown to the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games.

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, will conduct the ceremonial tipoff at 2 p.m., while Matt Devlin of the Toronto Raptors and Mike Frogley, director of the Wheelchair Basketball Canada Academy, will provide play-by-play of the game at Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens. Other players include: three-time Paralympic gold medallist Marni Abbott-Peter and local media and sport celebrities.

In addition to the wheelchair basketball game in Toronto, TO2015 and its partners will open the day's celebrations at 9:30 a.m. at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, home to judo and boccia during the Games.  Youth camps and community groups will have a chance to try out these and other Parapan sports to celebrate the two-year countdown. All events are free and open to the public. For more details, visit http://www.toronto2015.org

"The 2015 Parapan Am Games will be an amazing experience for our players — and all Canadian para-athletes, who rarely get to compete in major international competitions on home soil," said Peter, who is also a member of the Cowichan Tribes of British Columbia.

In two years, 1,500 of the best para-athletes from 28 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) will come to southern Ontario to compete in 15 sports, including the Parapan Am Games' debut of wheelchair rugby, which a Canadian team created in Winnipeg in 1977, and the return of football 7-a-side to the program for the first time since 2007. All sports are Paralympic qualifiers for the upcoming Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Previously, the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan Am Games in Mexico featured 13 sports with 1,310 athletes.

Next week, Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), will visit the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015), after opening the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, to discuss plans for hosting the largest Parapan Am Games ever held.

"The 2015 Parapan Am Games promise to not only showcase great athletes, but to also demonstrate the indomitable nature of the human spirit," said The Hon. David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. "I know that in 2015, Ontarians will embrace these amazing athletes as family. Our warm welcome and cheers of support will help them achieve their athletic dreams and leave them with a lifetime of memories of Ontario and indeed all of Canada."

A key player on the most successful men's wheelchair basketball team in Paralympic history (three gold and a silver), Peter, who is now retired, is hopeful the Canadian men's and women's teams will take gold in 2015. At the 2011 Parapan Am Games, the women won silver, while the men took bronze.

"These Games offer the chance to show off how intense the level of competition is and to attract new athletes to the Paralympic Movement," he continued. "This is a great time to be a para-athlete and it's only getting better as interest grows, thanks to the recent Games in Vancouver and London. I'm positive Toronto — and all the great sports fans here — will push that to the next level!"

In Whitby, children from local summer camps will take part in sport demonstrations with top Canadian athletes in judo, boccia, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

Abilities Centre, which opened in June 2012, has been lauded as one of the best new accessible sport and recreational facilities in the world. The barrier-free, indoor facility caters to local, national and international sporting events.

"In two years' time, Abilities Centre will be jumping with excitement as Canadians cheer on top para-athletes from the Americas and Caribbean. This is where their dreams will come true after years of hard work," explained TO2015 CEO Ian Troop. "That scene will be repeated for seven more days at sports facilities in Mississauga, Milton, Markham and Toronto.

"Canada has long championed the Paralympic Movement," he continued. "Our goal with the 2015 Parapan Am Games —the largest ever held — is to set a new standard for these Games and to raise awareness and increase participation in parasport in the Western Hemisphere."

It was only 14 years ago the first Parapan Am Games were held in Mexico City, with 1,000 athletes from 18 countries competing in four sports. They have grown steadily ever since. The TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games mark the first time they will be held in Canada.

Almost 40 years ago, Toronto helped play a role in changing how the world viewed Paralympic sports when it hosted the fifth Paralympic Games, called the Torontolympiad. Tens of thousands of Canadians cheered on more than 1,560 athletes from 40 countries who competed in 13 sports.

The Torontolympiad shepherded the expansion of eligible Paralympic athletes from strictly wheelchair users to include visually impaired and amputee athletes for the first time. Two new medal sports were officially added to the program (goalball and shooting), new distances were added for wheelchair racing and hundreds of hours of daily television coverage were produced for the first time, reaching new audiences for the nascent Paralympic Movement.

Canadian athletes have excelled in parasport ever since and helped raised the bar for competition globally, thanks to federal funding devoted to developing sport opportunities for people with a disability.

About TO2015
The TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) is tasked with the responsibility of planning, managing and delivering the Games. Its mission is to ignite the spirit through a celebration of sport and culture. The TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games will take place July 10−26 and the Parapan American Games August 7-14.

The 2015 Games are funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, as well as other partners and sponsors. CIBC is the Lead Partner of the Games.

For more information about the Games, please visit TORONTO2015.org.

Additional Quotes

The Honourable Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration:
"For decades, Canada has served as a leader in the Paralympic Movement, thanks to the work of tireless visionaries and federal programs that have helped develop sport opportunities for people with a disability. Our Government is proud to support the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, which are creating a rich legacy of accessible sport infrastructure for future generations to use and encouraging more Canadians to take up parasport and lead healthy, active lives."

The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport):
"In just two years, Canada will welcome the top para-athletes from the Americas and Caribbean for the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games. Our Government is proud to support these Games, which will create opportunities for more Canadians to get involved in parasport at the local recreational level in brand-new accessible facilities, while also providing a rare opportunity for our Canadian athletes to compete—and win—on home soil."

The Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games:
"In just 2 years Ontario will welcome athletes of all abilities who will inspire and elevate para-sport competitions in the global arena. Hosting the 2015 Parapan Am Games will heighten awareness of Ontario's increased para-sport capacity and showcase Ontario as an accessible tourist destination."

The Honourable Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment:
"By attracting the world's top para-athletes to Ontario, the Parapan Am Games will give us all an opportunity to celebrate their athleticism, their achievements and their determination. But the Parapan Am games will do even more -- they will leave a proud and enduring legacy of parasport infrastructure that will make our communities more accessible and more inclusive for years to come.

His Worship Rob Ford, Mayor of the City of Toronto:
"As the official Host City of the 2015 Parapan Am Games, Toronto will provide the stage from which the ever-growing parasport community will shine in the spotlight. These Games offer Torontonians a fantastic opportunity to experience live elite athletic competition but they will also spur our city's economy and create thousands of jobs. The lasting sports legacy of the 2015 Games will also benefit para-athletes in Toronto and our neighbouring communities, through the accessible facilities and infrastructure that will serve for years to come."

Her Worship Pat Perkins, Mayor of the Town of Whitby:
"Whitby is proud to be a host community for the 2015 Parapan Am Games. We are striving to be a completely barrier-free community that provides opportunities for everyone. We applaud the choice of the Abilities Centre, a world-class facility built for people of all abilities, as the venue. In true Canadian style, two years from now, we will open our arms to embrace the participants in the Parapan Am Games."

Leo Plue, Executive Director, Abilities Centre:
"Parasport in Canada has been drawing the world's attention for decades; not only for the talent and tenacity of our athletes, but for the way in which we back parasport in its most grassroots form. The TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games will create pride in our athletes and our communities and the Abilities Centre is thrilled to be involved as a venue where the best para-athletes in the Americas and Caribbean will compete."

Dr. Gaétan Tardif, President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC):
"We're looking forward to the TORONTO 2015 Parapan American Games where our objective is to compete at the highest level, to put our best team forward and to finish top three in the overall medal count. This is a strong and ambitious goal and the CPC will work with our sport organizations to make sure our athletes are well prepared to shine in front of Canadians in Toronto."

SOURCE: Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games

For further information:

Teddy Katz
Director, Media Relations and Chief Spokesperson, TO2015
C: 647.404.5263
teddy.katz@toronto2015.org

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Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games

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