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Cultural events to roll out in lead up to Games

Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014

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By Neil Armstrong

When the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games were awarded to Toronto on November 6, 2009, there was much celebration as this would give the province of Ontario its first international multi-sport event since the British Empire Games in 1930.

While close to 7,000 athletes from across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and North America will compete in 36 Pan Am sports and 15 Parapan Am sports, there will be also be a 35-day festival of the cultures of Toronto and of the Pan Am member nations throughout the Games, starting on July 10 and ending on August 14.

The Pan American Games are the world’s third largest international multi-sport event, only surpassed in size and scope by the Olympic Summer Games and the Asian Games.

Both the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are held every four years for the athletes of the 41 Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) member nations, in the year preceding the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games.

Iris Nemani, senior producer of arts, culture and festivals for the Games, says in July 2014, one year to the Games the story will get louder, “we will start talking about how this city is going to come together artistically, creatively and start welcoming the world to Toronto in July 2015.”

Beginning in July 2015 with the opening ceremonies, as Toronto welcomes the athletes, officials and all of the 41 nations to the city, Nemani says, “we begin the story of celebrating all of our cultures together and what it is that makes Toronto so unique and so diverse.”

The TORONTO 2015 Games will involve municipalities stretching from Oshawa to Welland.

Nemani said TO2015 has created a festival program that is contemporary in nature “telling the story of who we are today, where we want to go as artists, as people and as communities.

The festivals Nemani is planning to do are based on collaboration and she is hoping to engage artists from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and also the Americas to come here.

“It’s an opportunity for us as audiences to see emerging and professional artists, whether or not they are from Argentina or they are from Trinidad, or they are from Mexico to come here that we can celebrate with them. And also that communities here have an opportunity to stand proud and tall – both their athletes that are here in the city but also the artists that are here in the city,” she said.

The senior producer said the artists “tell the story of our collective history which is why it is important that they are a part of this celebration.”

In 2012, TO2015 started telling the story by putting 41 pianos on the streets of the city and found 41 local professional artists, each one from one of the Pan Am nations, who were given the pianos as canvases to design or paint in the spirit of their countries.

The pianos were put on the streets and the public was invited to play them with signs saying, “Play me, I’m yours.”

“That idea is really about offering the public the opportunity to engage and celebrate and delight, should you choose, and that the idea is that’s a taste of the festival. We did that two summers ago for three years to the Games,” Nemani said.

For the summer of 2013, there was Streetside, where they took 9, 1920s and 1930s vintage GM pickup trucks and put bands in the back of them.

The bands were all from musical genres from the Americas, including ska, reggae, salsa, tango, and performed in Toronto and also in Markham and Hamilton.

Nemani said this was “more in the idea that as you walk down the street in 2015 in the summer, the Games are on. It may be a little harder to get around, it’s going to be a lot more people coming here but we’re all going to celebrate together and that’s what we’re trying to give a taste of what that festival will be like.”

She said there would be “live sites” – public squares with stages, music, dance and spoken word – that will happen every day celebrating “this incredible event that’s happening in this city and also celebrating our city and our province.”

Nemani said TO2015 is commissioning all sorts of new unique work that will be world premieres in 2015, such as dance, music, photography, fashion and “you name it, there will be new pieces out there, both free, accessible primarily, some ticketed but mostly free and the idea is an opportunity for artists to grow their audiences. If you put it outside, if you put it in spaces where people don’t normally engage, you have the opportunity to broaden those audiences which will be wonderful for those artists.”

 “We wrap our Canadian flag around ourselves but we also wrap our Mexican flag and our Cuban flag and we cheer for those athletes as our country. But it is also about the spirit and the culture of your country that you are celebrating. And, that’s the festival piece, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Nemani about the purpose of the festival during the Games.

While the Pan Am Games have been hosted in a dozen countries throughout the Americas, Canada has hosted them twice; in 1967 and 1999, both in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The first Pan American Games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951 and the inaugural Parapan American Games were held in Mexico City in 1999.

Photos contributed by TORONTO 2015 

 


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