Sunday night (July 26), I was lucky enough to attend the Pan Am Games Closing Ceremony. Arriving, admittedly a little too early, I took my seat in row 1, 200 level. The energy and atmosphere at first was rather subdued. Three CBC hosts were lacklustre in trying to get the crowd going – picture cheesy skits and corny catch phrases.
As the main performances for the night began, I looked around and saw the Rogers Centre more full than I have seen it in a long time. Close to 40,000 people were in attendance. The athletes made their way into the stadium from two entrances, grouped together by country walking in clumps out to the ‘pit’. the ceremonial process was more rushed and less dramatic than it had been for the opening ceremonies. With the crowd on their feet welcoming the athletes that had worked so hard over the past 16 days, the energy in the building started to rise. The Canadian athletes walked into a roar of applause, smiling, waving and looking grateful for the support of fellow Canadians.
The performances began with clusters of dancers, moving through fantastic choreography. The speeches began, and to my pleasant surprise, were very well spoken and didn’t bore the thousands of audience members as I had predicted. Adding some humour, and boasting Toronto’s pride for hosting such successful games, we were given a glimmer of hope that one day we would host the summer Olympics. The ceremonious raising of Peru’s flag, and the handover from John Tory (who needs lessons in flag waving if I’m being frank), to the Mayor of Lima, Peru, and a special performance by Peru’s dancers and choreographers, brought us closer to the most anticipated part of the night – the concerts!
Serena Ryder took the stage with her band and back up singers. She performed upbeat songs from her new album, and the crowd clapped and bounced along in their seats. While many didn’t recognize her music she did a great job warming up the audience and representing Canadian music well. She is a very talented musician. After only a taste, three songs, she left the stage only to be replaced by Pitbull.
Pitbull walked out with four gorgeous women in tow, all dressed perfectly in white. He had no band, no special effects, just himself and four dancers. As he kicked off his performance with ‘Fireball’ (a personal favourite), you were hard pressed to find people still seated or at the very least not dancing. People of all ages were shimmying, clapping and loving his performance. The pit of athletes and volunteers went crazy for him. He brought the energy in the place to its highest peak of the night.
Ten minutes later, as the crowd cheered begging Pitbull for an encore, he exited ‘stage left’. Kanye sauntered on stage wearing baggy ripped jeans and a matching sweater. He started his performance strong, with a shorter rendition of ‘Stronger’. I have to admit – there were more people dancing and clapping along than I would have expected. As he moved through his set, the audience seemingly grew tired of him. For some unknown reason, all of the lights were turned on in the stadium. At 10pm on a Sunday, the last thing you want to have is giant overbearing lights beaming down on you. Then, the now infamous microphone disaster. It was an awkward, couple of seconds as the background music kept playing and Kayne looked as if he was singing but no sound was coming from his voice. No one was sure what to do, some giggling, some looking confused and a bit distraught. When Kayne finally realized there was no going back and the mic would most likely not be fixed in time, he threw it into the air and rather calmly walked off stage. It was a weird ending to a rather disjointed series of performances put on by PanAm, yet I still left satisfied and proud of Toronto.
I joined the groups of people rushing, sometimes running to get outside in time to see the fireworks and I’m glad to say I made it just in time. I don’t remember another time when there were fireworks shooting off of the CN Tower (except the opening ceremonies). In fact, you can read more about the man behind the fireworks in an interesting article here. Personally, I think this should happen more often. Watching from below was unreal.
As I sit here reflecting not only on the night, but on the last two weeks, two things come to mind: The first is that Toronto cannot handle traffic of any kind, pedestrian or otherwise. I can’t even begin to explain to you the chaos that was Bremner, Spadina and Front street following the performance. For some reason beyond my capability of understanding, the Toronto Police had sections of not just the road but the sidewalk blocked off so that ten of thousands of audience members were herded like cattle towards a small section of sidewalk. We won’t even begin to bring up that absolute mess of the Toronto highways due to the HOV lanes.
The second, and rather on a more positive note to end this post, is that Toronto makes a fantastic host for large sporting events. The athletes seemed happy, the events ran quite successfully and ticket sales garnered more profit than expected. I’m going to say what most other Canadians are thinking – Toronto would make an excellent city for the 2024 summer Olympics **cough** we’re looking at you Olympic Committee!