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Adam van Koeverden: Dream Big Toronto

Adam van Koeverden: Dream Big Toronto

Champion kayaker Adam van Koeverden first captured the world’s attention at the 2004 Olympic Games, where he was a double medalist with gold and bronze victories. Since then, he has continued to dominate the sport, taking silver at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, earning two World Championship titles in 2007 and 2011, and being named “Canada’s Athlete of the Year” in 2012. Fresh from his bronze-medal win at the recent Pan Am Games in Toronto, Adam shared his thoughts with The Toronto Sun on why he thinks the city should put in a bid for the upcoming Olympic Games:

There is absolutely no denying what a fantastic success Toronto 2015 was.

It was probably the best party Toronto has ever thrown.

The organizing committee pulled off an incredible spectacle. The 23,000 (!) volunteers were tireless and gracious and our athletes performed exceptionally well. Panamania was also a kick-ass success – but I’m biased since I love live music and fireworks.

Best of all though, Toronto got behind the whole show.

Torontonians and the Greater Toronto Area residents hosted the Americas in the most welcoming and open-hearted way I’ve ever seen a city host a multi-sport games.

Nice one T.O.!

Toronto is quickly becoming a truly global city.

I mentioned this to a good friend recently and he asked me: “what does that even mean?” It’s a valid question, because it’s certainly a subjective affirmation. In my opinion, a global city is one that gets talked about and written about in the international media as a city that stands out for doing things well, and differently.

Global cities innovate, and change the game.

They invite people over, and ensure that they leave bragging about their trip. I brag about Toronto all the time, but I want to hear the world brag about us the way I hear friends returning from London, New York, Istanbul, Tokyo, Sydney, Berlin and Copenhagen, Denmark brag about their metropolitan adventures.

The biggest winner of the Pan Am Games the city hosted this summer is Toronto.

Dozens of countries and hundreds of athletes left our city with medals and records, along with stories and new friends.

Toronto gets all these sparkling new sports venues, a beautiful new neighbourhood called the west Donlands, a finished Queen’s Quay project, a finished Front Street, a Union Station complete with a train to Toronto Pearson International Airport, that insanely Instagram-friendly Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square and bragging rights that we threw the best Pan Am/Parapan Am Games ever.

Pretty sweet deal actually.

I was lifting weights in the new Scarborough facility this past winter and I was struck by how fully the community adopted it as their own right away.

I looked out on the track to see new mothers pushing their strollers around the outside, some elderly folks walking in the middle lanes, and some university students jogging in the middle. About 60 kids were playing basketball on six courts just below that and others were playing table tennis and badminton. I didn’t even check out the two 50m swimming pools or the dive tank, but I guarantee they were full of people young and old exercising and being happier and healthier.

The same is true for all the new venues built for the Pan Am Games. People are paddling in Welland, Miltonians are riding their bikes in tiny circles at the Velodrome and York University has a speedy new track.

They were built for the Pan Ams, but it’s the community that wins in the long run.

So my position is clear: Pan Ams left Toronto a way better place.

Are you convinced yet?

So what now? Is that all we’ve got?

I think we should start planning the next big show, and set our sights on an even bigger goal.

People sometimes call this great city ‘Toronto the Good.’ I love that because I think it’s true. We are a good city, and it’s because of who we are, not where we are or what we do.

When I say that I think Toronto can host the best Summer Olympics ever, it’s because I trust the people who I know and call my neighbours to do an awesome job.

New IOC President Thomas Bach set out some new priorities for host cities to abide by. His 2020 agenda mandates that the costs remain reasonable, that all facilities are sustainable and, wherever possible, existing sport venues be utilized.

Fancy, cause we just built a whole bunch of sweet new sports venues.

Toronto has an amazing opportunity – an opportunity of a lifetime – not just to win an Olympic bid and host the world and take more awesome Instagram photos in front of City Hall. But to change the game.

We can innovate and become even more world-class. We can host the most socially responsible, financially sustainable and environmentally friendly Olympic Games in the history of the world. We’ll make that our first priority, and the IOC will be stoked we did.

Why am I so confident? Because Toronto, we are awesome.

My fellow Torontonians, we deserve nice things.

Let’s be proud of what we did together and be ambitious about the future.

Let’s take on a new challenge and be confident that our public and private sectors have the expertise and ability to execute an Olympics we can all brag about forever.

Because after all, those aren’t really sectors, they’re us. We can do it, together.

Let’s invite the world over again for some sports, and send them home bragging about their trip to ‘Toronto the Great.’

Adam van Koeverden/Toronto Sun/September, 2015