Pan Am Opening Ceremony Celebrates the History of a Land, the Heart of a People and a Games to Remember
TORONTO, July 10, 2015 /CNW/ - The TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony, produced by Cirque du Soleil, Official Creative Partner for the Opening Ceremony, spoke to the enduring legacy of First Nations, the welcoming of cultures from around the world, the inspirational power of athletes, and the proud legacy of Canadian sport heroes who passed the torch to a new generation of Canadians competing in the largest-ever international, multi-sport Games in Canada's history.
"We are thrilled to be a part of the 2015 Pan Am Games, celebrating humanity, sports, culture, courage and excellence," explained Yasmine Khalil, executive producer, Opening Ceremony, and president, 45 DEGREES, the Cirque du Soleil special events company delivering the Opening Ceremony. "This unique performance, created exclusively for these Games over the last two years, is the first Opening Ceremony for Cirque du Soleil. It was an endeavour we were excited to embark on. To produce our largest special event to date, we worked closely with the TO2015 team towards a production that represents the Greater Golden Horseshoe region as well as the diversity Canada has to offer."
In front of a sold-out live audience of 45,000, with hundreds of millions of households watching the broadcast across the world, a breathtakingly spectacular performance ranged from the roots of Canada's history, to the streets of modern-day Toronto to the pinnacle of the CN Tower.
It began where Canada's human history originated — in the lives, traditions and culture of indigenous peoples, and broadened to include Canada's multi-cultural diversity. Representing the peoples of the world, 21 dance groups comprising 185 dancers, including 20 First Nations dancers from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Métis Nation of Ontario, the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Huron-Wendat Nation, all danced in unison to the aboriginal-inspired electronic rhythms of DJ Shub.
Breaking with tradition, the Pan Am flame arrived early, igniting the entire celebration. Showing that although an athlete may slow down with age, the fire continues to burn bright, the torch was carried through the streets of Toronto by the 4 x 100-metre relay team that brought a nation to its feet with a gold-medal performance at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Carl Chambers, Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey passed the Pan Am flame on its journey from Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood to the very top of the CN Tower. Surin ran his leg of the torch relay atop the Tower's EdgeWalk, running 356 metres at 1,168 feet above the ground, passing the flame to Canadian track legend Bailey.
When Bailey came from behind to win gold in the 1996 Olympic 100-metre sprint, one television commentator said he "came from the clouds." History repeated itself, literally, when the audience saw Bailey turn, torch in hand, and BASE jump from the CN Tower as he floated by parachute to the stadium roof, before descending from the ceiling and delivering the flame to the Opening Ceremony.
After reuniting with his 1996 teammates, the flame was passed to a new generation, as Bailey handed the torch to Faith Zacharias, a Canadian diver vying for gold at the Pan Am Games. These Canadian heroes set the stage for the arrival of the Canadian flag, which was escorted by an RCMP honour guard, and accompanied by the sounds of eclectic musicians Chilly
Gonzales, Véronic DiCaire and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was the first of many flags as the Parade of Nations followed, leading athletes, judges and officials from the 41 Pan Am delegations into the stadium.
Following the raising of the Pan Am Games and Olympic Games flags, Saäd Rafi, TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) chief executive officer, spoke of the excitement of the Games and the legacy they will leave. "Canadian hearts are big. They swell with pride in the country we love, but they leave room for the country of our origin," said Rafi. "The memory of these Games, and the beautiful venues left behind, will say to our youth for years to come: To try is worthy. To be hopeful is right. To be idealistic is wise."
Dr. Julio C. Maglione, president, Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), then welcomed athletes and visitors to the Games. A video tribute honoured the 2015 passing of Mario Vázquez Raña, who was PASO's president at the time of his death and who dedicated 40 years of his life to international sport. Governor General David Johnston then said the words everyone had been waiting to hear: "Tonight, I solemnly declare open the 17th Pan American Games."
A brilliant final performance creatively illustrated the growth of Toronto into a modern
metropolis — the final destination for the Pan Am flame. The flame was then passed as part of a once-in-a-lifetime relay made up of prominent Canadian athletes.
A replica cauldron representing the "People's Games" was located within the stadium, and was so named because its creation was the product of a broad, inclusive community consultation that included more than 300 individuals from 30 communities. The cauldron remained unlit for a moment, as Faith Zacharias returned. She passed the flame to Dana Wright, Charmaine Crooks, Jillian Richardson, Molly Killingbeck and Marita Payne-Wiggins, members of the Canadian 1984 Olympic silver medal 4 x 400-metre relay team.
Passing the flame to the "next generation" took on a special, emotional meaning as Payne-Wiggins was met at centre stage by her son, Canadian-born NBA basketball star Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins ran up the stadium steps to meet the final torchbearer, Steve Nash, one of the most internationally recognized Canadian athletes of all time, a two-time winner of the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award and current general manager of Canada's senior men's basketball team.
After a historic run to outside the stadium, Nash ignited a bowl to transfer the flame to the Games cauldron located at the foot of the CN Tower. With both cauldrons gleaming — cauldrons proudly forged by ArcelorMittal Dofasco Hamilton steelworkers — the crowd erupted. The athletes soaked up the moment, basking in the welcoming, vibrant and joyful atmosphere. Tomorrow, 6,100 athletes from 41 countries and territories will begin competing in 36 sports in the 15 Host Communities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.
To see photos from the Opening Ceremony, please visit http://toronto2015.mediaroom.com/pad.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Government of Canada
"Over the coming weeks, athletes from across the Americas and Caribbean will amaze us with their skill, determination, and competitive spirit. The Government of Canada is pleased to support the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games, which will strengthen ties among our nations and develop the tremendous athletic talent that is thriving throughout the region. On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I commend everyone involved in making TORONTO 2015 a success, and offer our best wishes to the athletes for a rewarding experience."
Premier Kathleen Wynne, Province of Ontario
"The Pan Am Opening Ceremony kicked off the Games with Cirque du Soleil's world-famous acrobatics and theatrics in a uniquely Canadian celebration of sport, culture and the friendships that define us. It was a great start to the 2015 Games and I want to thank all those involved. Our celebration of the very best of sports and culture continues throughout the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, with top athletes from across the Americas and Caribbean vying to reach the podium and cultural festivities taking place throughout the region. The Games are filled with incredible competition and festivities for all ages, so together let's make these the best Games ever!"
Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto
"The world will be watching as athletes from 41 nations assemble in on our city to reach for the top of the podium and create memories that will last a lifetime," said Mayor John Tory. "Toronto is proud to host over two weeks of sporting competitions that will celebrate sporting excellence and showcase the diversity of our city."
Chief Bryan LaForme, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation
"Aanii! It's my pleasure to welcome you to our traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. TORONTO 2015 marks the first time that a Pan Am Games will have First Nation Indigenous people as its official host. Our theme "Embracing the Spirit" encompasses sport and the opportunity to showcase our unique traditions and culture with the world, gaining a better, more accurate perspective of the Mississauga peoples and First Nations in Canada."
Dr. Julio C. Maglione, President of the Pan American Sports Organization
"We want these to be great Games for their organization and high technical level; but, essentially, that these Games are a true and live expression of the purest feelings of friendship, solidarity and peace that promote and develop sport in each one of the countries of the Americas. That is our commitment and the challenge we assume, convinced that it is possible to achieve it. A very special thank you to the city of Toronto, the Organizing Committee of these Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Governments of Canada, Ontario and Toronto for their excellent work, which has made it possible to announce today it is ready to welcome and celebrate, with great enthusiasm and joy, this wonderful feast of youth and sport in the Americas. One more time: Thank you, Toronto!"
SOURCE Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games
Image with caption: "The TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony, produced by Cirque du Soleil, saw the passing of the Pan Am flame from one generation to the next, as Marita Payne-Wiggins, a member of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games silver-medal-winning Canadian 4 x 400-metre relay team, passes the flame to her son, NBA star Andrew Wiggins. (CNW Group/Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150711_C4522_PHOTO_EN_443298.jpg
Image with caption: "At the foot of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, final TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games torchbearer and retired NBA star Steve Nash dramatically ignites the Pan Am Games cauldron. (CNW Group/Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150711_C4522_PHOTO_EN_443302.jpg
Image with caption: "Hundreds of performers took to the stage in front of 6,100 athletes from 41 countries and territories and more than 45,000 spectators during the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony, produced by Cirque du Soleil. (CNW Group/Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150711_C4522_PHOTO_EN_443294.jpg
Image with caption: "A spectacular fireworks display took place at the CN Tower plaza in downtown Toronto to conclude the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony and signal the start of the Games. (CNW Group/Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150711_C4522_PHOTO_EN_443307.jpg