Pan American Games in Guadalajara. Toronto - you're next
This model version of Guadalajara in the main media centre is pretty cool, but I posted this photo because in the background you can see construction workers fanning wet paint. At this point, they have about 30 hours until the opening ceremonies.
I’d been reading for months that this Pan American Games was going to be a complete disaster. The kind of Titanic failure that would go down as cautionary tale legend for future Pan Am organizing committees.
For example: Less than a month ago, the main athletic stadium — already drastically smaller than originally planned — was only 85 per cent done. Venues hosting handball, karate, rowing, rugby and canoeing weren’t finished either. Sports federation approvals were still pending.
But this afternoon I arrived here in Guadalajara — a city you might have heard of before in a conversation about tequilla or mariachi music, both of which originated here — and things don't seem so bad.
There are signs they're cutting it pretty close. At the main press centre, for instance, construction crews are frantically waving large sheets of something at freshly-painted walls, presumably trying to dry them faster. Official-looking people are jogging between rooms, cellphone glued to their ear. And on the streets, city workers are painting over grungy-looking guardrails. But the big stuff is done. The track got federation approval earlier this week. And mostly importantly on every corner, locals seem excited about what’s happening here.
Kids are walking around carrying plush toys of the Pokemon-looking mascots. I don't speak Spanish, but everywhere I go I see smiling people saying PanAmericanos. At dinner time today, about 80 people were standing in line to buy event tickets in the drizzling rain (although at least it wasn't Hurricane Jova). That line was just as long 3 hours before when I stopped by to pick up my press accreditation.
In four years, Toronto is hosting the next Games. (Which is why a person who covers city hall is down here.)
All in, the Toronto Games will cost 10 times more than Guadalajara's. To some, that $2.5 billion could be better spent. To others, it's an investment in sports infrastructure about four decades too late.
A large contingent of Canadians from every level of government are here observing. Among the lessons they hope to bring back: how did this gridlocked city handle traffic, managing athletes' needs and getting locals excited.
The big question I hope to answer is: was it worth it?