"Toronto has the potential to put on the best Parapan Am Games ever."
Building on international momentum generated by the transformative London 2012 Paralympic Games, international Paralympic experts are gathering in Toronto this week to hash out plans for hosting the largest Parapan Am Games ever in just 880 days.
The TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games, which start August 7, 2015, will involve more than 1,500 para-athletes from 28 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) competing in 15 sports throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, including athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball.
The four-day International Paralympic Committee (IPC) co-ordination commission visit marks the first time the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organising Committee (TO2015) has officially hosted the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, as well as the Americas Paralympic Committee (APC).
"TO2015 is pleased to welcome our distinguished guests to Toronto as we work towards creating the largest and most spectacular Parapan Am Games ever held," said TO2015 CEO Ian Troop.
"We appreciate the invaluable guidance of the IPC and APC in fine-tuning our plans for the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games. Together, we will ensure these Games set new benchmarks for growing the Paralympic Movement and in enshrining accessibility and inclusion not only in future Games but also in everyday life throughout the Americas and the Caribbean."
The seven-person delegation is led by IPC CEO Xavier Gonzalez and APC President Octavio Londoño.
"Toronto has the potential to put on the best Parapan Am Games ever," said Gonzalez. "This will be a vital Games for us in increasing awareness and visibility. Like the London 2012 Games did for the Paralympic Movement globally, it's our hope Toronto will inspire and reach new audiences for the development of Paralympic sports in the Americas and the Caribbean, especially in the lead-up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games."
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. Tens of thousands of Canadians cheered on more than 1,650 athletes from approximately 40 countries who competed in 13 sports at the 1976 Paralympic Games.
The Toronto Games 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 programme (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 Paralympic sports ever since and helped raised the bar for competition globally, thanks to federal funding devoted to developing sport opportunities for people with a disability.
"Canada is a leader in promoting inclusivity and accessibility, and in championing para-sport," added Londoño. "The TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games will showcase this spirit and help us fulfill our aim of having inclusive sport throughout the Americas and Caribbean in the near future."
During the four-day IPC and APC visit, which concludes Thursday, senior members of TO2015 will outline the budget and sports programme for the Games, as well as accessibility for athletes and spectators, plans for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Look of the Games, medical services and anti-doping, media operations, broadcasting, transportation, ticketing and the four Parapan venue clusters.
The TORONTO 2015 Games are using an integrated planning model when it comes to hosting the Parapan Am and Pan Games - a model that recognises both Games are separate, unique and equal.
For example, TO2015 is building its new facilities to the highest levels of accessibility, thereby ensuring greater operational efficiencies and community and legacy use. The Organising Committee is also working to ensure spectators and athletes at both Games enjoy the same experiences and are able to participate fully in the same dignified way.
Delegates will also visit Parapan venue construction sites, such as the Athletes' Village and the Pan Am and Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus.
All 15 the sports to be contested in Toronto will serve as qualifiers for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The TORONTO 2015 sport program will feature the Parapan Am debut of wheelchair rugby and the return of football 7-a-side to the program for the first time since 2007.
The number of athletes (1,500) and sports (15) means the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games will be the largest ever held. In comparison, the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan Am Games in Mexico featured 13 sports with 1,310 athletes.
Leading up to the TORONTO 2015 Games, TO2015 will host the IPC and APC three more times, in addition to NPCs from the Americas and the Caribbean.