Wave of Celebrations Spread Across Southern Ontario to Mark Two-Year Countdown to TORONTO 2015 Games

Top athletes Simon Whitfield, Mary Spencer, Josh Cassidy, Kara Lang, Curt Harnett, Mark Oldershaw, Mandy Bujold, Jason Burnett, Jessica Phoenix, Shelley Gautier and K.C. Fraser taking part

First Games venue to officially open today in Welland

TORONTO, July 10, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, top Canadian athletes from a variety of summer sports—boxing, gymnastics, softball, canoe/kayak (sprint), athletics and triathlon—are igniting a celebration of sport and culture across southern Ontario, marking the two-year countdown to the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

Radiating out from Toronto, the Host City of the Games, special events are taking place in Ajax (baseball and softball), Caledon (equestrian), Hamilton (soccer), Markham (table tennis, badminton), Milton (cycling), Mississauga (taekwondo, judo, karate, wrestling, wheelchair rugby, goalball), Oshawa (boxing), St. Catharines (rowing) and Welland (canoe/kayak sprint).

All events are free and open to the public. For more details, visit http://www.toronto2015.org/lang/en/viva-toronto/two-year-countdown.html

"Today is about bringing the excitement of the TORONTO 2015 Games to all corners of the Greater Golden Horseshoe," said Ian Troop, chief executive officer of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015).

"Each community has put their own unique stamp on their event today, highlighting the sports they're hosting and celebrating the features and talents of their hometowns they're most proud of," he added. "This is just the beginning of what the region will look like two years from today when we join together to stage the largest international multi-sport Games ever held in Canada!"

In Toronto, Olympic silver medallist Jason Burnett will perform his award-winning trampoline routine while top Ontario BMX riders soar and do aerial tricks on a closed-off street in the midst of downtown skyscrapers. Visitors can also try out rugby, modern pentathlon and sitting volleyball.

Newly announced CIBC Team Next athlete mentors will also sign autographs and pose for photos in Toronto with members of the public at the event in Commerce Court. The mentors include triathlon star Simon Whitfield (four-time Olympian and Olympic gold and silver medallist); soccer player Kara Lang (Olympian, Pan Am Games bronze medallist and two-time FIFA World Cup player); boxer Mary Spencer (Olympian and 2011 Pan Am Games gold medallist); and wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy (two-time Paralympian and winner of the 2010 London Marathon and 2012 Boston Marathon).

In Welland, canoe sprinter Mark Oldershaw, a 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, and kayak sprinter K.C. Fraser, a 2011 Pan Am gold medallist, will go head-to-head in the inaugural race at the official opening of the newly renovated Welland Pan Am Flatwater Centre.

In Markham—site of the largest community celebration today—thousands are expected to turn out to watch Sun Jian Fei, a professional table tennis player and former Chinese national team member, show off his fast moving blades, while 2011 Pan Am boxing gold medallists Mary Spencer and Mandy Bujold enjoy a friendly spar in Oshawa.

"With two years to go until we welcome athletes from throughout the Americas to the 2015 Pan American Games, preparations are on time and on budget," said the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport). "Our Government is proud to be making investments in building state-of-the-art facilities that will serve not only our elite athletes, but also the citizens of the Greater Golden Horseshoe for years to come."

"Today's events across the Greater Golden Horseshoe mark an important milestone - in two years, Ontario will host the world as we come together and showcase youth, diversity and athletic excellence in our province," said Michael Chan, Ontario Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games. "These community celebrations are just the beginning - they are getting people excited about the lasting legacy that the Games will leave for future generations."

Elsewhere in the region, Curt Harnett —Canada's greatest track cyclist of all time and three-time Olympic medallist—will lead a cycling circuit around town hall in Milton, the future home of Canadian cycling, along with Shelley Gautier, Paralympian and 2011 Parapan Am Games silver medallist in para-cycling, while members of Canada's multiple-medal-winning wheelchair rugby team and up-and-coming taekwondo athletes lead community festivities in Mississauga, home to four combative sports and three parasports in 2015.

Jessica Phoenix, Olympian and 2011 Pan Am Games gold and silver medallist in equestrian, will be on hand to greet the crowds at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park as they tour its first phase of renovations for the Games. In Ajax, hard-throwing pitcher Robin Mackin, a Pan Am Games silver medallist and member of the 2008 Canadian Olympic softball team, will cheer on a host of well-known ball players during a celebrity softball/baseball exhibition game.

In all 10 communities, special murals, created by sports artist David Arrigo through the Pan Am Mural Experience presented by CIBC, will be officially presented and unveiled for the first time. The one-of-a-kind artworks capture their unique cultural and sporting history and will remain in the communities as permanent mementos of the Games.

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.

SOURCE: Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games

For further information:

Teddy Katz
Director, Media Relations and Chief Spokesperson, TO2015
C: 647.404.5263

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