If it were up to Councillor Brian Mayes and Mayor Brian Bowman, the Pan American Games would be as regular a visitor to Winnipeg as Red River floods and Halley’s comet.
At city council on Oct. 28, Mr. Mayes introduced a motion that would launch a feasibility study into hosting the Games in 2031.
Mr. Bowman seconded, and the matter will be considered by the city’s executive policy committee later this month.
Councilor seeks city study on potential Pan Am Games bidClick to Expand
Posted: 4:35 PM Oct. 28, 2021
A bid to play host to the 2031 Pan American Games might be in Winnipeg’s future.
Coun. Brian Mayes is calling for the city to “explore a potential Winnipeg bid” to host the games that year, estimating the event would attract about 6,000 elite athletes and up to 100,000 visitors.
If a Games bid is successful, it would be the third time Winnipeg has hosted the Pan Am Games. Athletes from North, Central and South America first descended upon the city in 1967, and a new generation competed in Winnipeg 32 years later, in 1999. Add 32 years to 1999 and the calendar reads 2031.
The symmetry is tantalizing, but so are the potential economic spinoffs that come from hosting such an event. The influx of visitors alone will provide a shot in the arm to Manitoba’s tourism industry, and hosting such a big event should boost civic pride as Winnipeg once again makes a mark on the global stage.
But there are a lot of matters the study must consider before a bid is submitted to the Pan American Sports Organization, which oversees the event. Individual Winnipeggers and Manitobans should examine them, too.
If Winnipeg were to bid for the Pan Ams, it must avoid the trap many other cities have fallen into when they’ve hosted large sporting events, such as the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup.
For Athens, which hosted the summer Olympics in 2004, all that remains is a pile of debt and costly venues that have been abandoned.
Closer to home, it took Montreal 30 years to finally pay the bill for the 1976 Olympics, which went more than $1 billion over budget.
Winnipeg’s Pan Am Games approaches were far more frugal. Both the 1967 and 1999 Games made money, and part of the reason the latter was a success was its use of existing and temporary facilities.
That has left Winnipeg with an aging sporting legacy that comes mostly from the 1967 Games. They include University Stadium, which hosted athletics in 1967 and ‘99, Pan Am Pool, which did the same for aquatic events, and Shaw Park, which was built for the Goldeyes and hosted baseball in 1999.
Newer sporting infrastructure, such as IG Field and Canada Life Centre, would play large roles in hosting events as well, but proper venues will be needed for the Pan Am Games’ 36 different sports.
The study must also consider whether Winnipeggers want to make another Pan Am push.
While politicians are glad to burnish their own legacies by attracting large sporting events to their cities, it is ordinary people, those who vote them into office, who make such events a success, especially in Winnipeg.
In 1967, American visitors and media were wowed by the 9,000 Manitoba volunteers, from doctors and lawyers to retirees and Boy Scouts, who helped make the Pan Am Games run so smoothly.
The 1999 Games were bigger, but so were the contributions from Winnipeggers and Manitobans, about 20,000 of whom sacrificed their summers for civic pride.
They received no medals, but they were the big winners and Winnipeg and Manitoba and the Pan Am Games were the beneficiaries.
The study must find whether there will be similar support from volunteers in 2031, because, without their hard work and passion, no amount of money or shiny stadiums will make an event such as the Pan Am Games work.