In the summer of 2015, Toronto will host the 17th Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. It may be two years away and will last less than two months, but it will leave a mark on the city long before, and long after, the athletes have packed and gone home.
The games' organizing committee (TO2015) is hoping that a big part of the games' legacy will be the way it engaged diverse groups of Torontonians. The event's tagline is, afterall, "the people's games."
Last week, as part of its overall strategy, T02015 officially launched the TO2015 IGNITE
program, an initiative that invites grassroots organizations to become affiliated with the upcoming games.
"We were looking to an answer to the question of 'how do we get involved with these games,'" says Zenia Wadhwani, director of community outreach for TO2015. "We wanted a means for people to get involved, understanding that we had our own concerns about budget and resources and how do we do that. So we developed the idea of IGNITE, the idea being that organizations or individuals could create their own Pan Am program under our banner, in their own way, and what we would be able to provide was sort of a stamp of approval."
In order to get the IGNITE affiliation, projects must in some capacity be inspired by the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Once approved by the organizing committee, the projects will then join the TO2015 IGNITE program, receiving an official association with the Games, the use of the IGNITE logo, and local and national exposure.
IGTINE launched as a pilot program early last year, with 35 organizations participating in the first round.
"We reached out to about 50 plus organizations that we had touched base with in some way," says Wadhwani. "We were talking to them about the games. We were talking to them about opportunities for partnership and invited them to submit an application."
As a result of the pilot program, 35 projects in Toronto, St. Catharines, Brampton, Hamilton, Londesborough and Ajax are now operating under the IGNITE banner. Projects include a UofT Pan Am themed summer camp, a boxing challenge offered by Mentoring Junior Kids Organization (MJKO), and an Americas-themed multi-media performance at the Art Gallery of York University.
Based off the pilot's success, IGNITE officially launched in late January. The first round of applications is due March 1st.
"When we say the 'people's games,' what we really want to do is create real sense of ownership," says Wadhwani. "These are the games that are coming to my region and I have a stake in them. So what the program does is allow individuals to say, 'It's my idea, I'm going to manage it, I'm going to create it, I'm still going to be able to attach to the games and I'm going to do it in my own way."
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Zenia Wadhwani, Director of Community Outreach, TO2015