October 1, 2014 by Speakers' Spotlight
Colonel Chris Hadfield to be Canada’s First Pan Am Torchbearer
“We are starting something really cool for Canada today,” Colonel Chris Hadfield, who will be the first Pan Am torchbearer on May 30, declared at the Toronto Eaton Centre mall as registrations began Wednesday.
For 41 days next year, the torch will visit five cities outside Ontario and 130 communities in the province before a cauldron for the games is lit in downtown Toronto on July 10.
Hadfield, a former fighter pilot and International Space Station commander – he’s seen the Americas from space thousands of times – said the games will challenge young people to push themselves to the edge of their capabilities.
“The inspiration of it is the key,” added the celebrated Canadian astronaut, who introduced the torch run with Olympic gold medalists Catriona Le May Doan and Simon Whitfield.
Some of the 3,000 bearers of the flame – to be lit at an Aztec ceremony at the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico – will be chosen by communities on the route or games stakeholders.
Games CEO Saad Rafi said the torches will be carried by people on two wheels, four wheels in canoes and on horseback.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she’s excited about the approaching games.
“The torch relay starts to make it very real,” she said, adding a message of support for the young athletes she said were rising early to train at a pool, track or gymnasium: “We are right there with you.”
Some 7,500 athletes and 250,000 visitors are expected at Toronto’s Pan American and Parapan Am Games, which start 40 weeks from now.
Tickets start at $20, and there are discounts for seniors and children.
Stacey LaForme, councillor of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, a people whose territory was Toronto before the city was founded, said the games “allow us to be better today than we were yesterday.”
“When the torch passes, remember it represents pride, honour, unity and growth,” he said.
Also attending Wednesday’s relay launch were MPP Michael Coteau, provincial minister responsible for the games, and Bal Gosal, federal minister of state for sport.