Pan Am Games: Healthy rivalry for excellence

By Michael Lashley

The famous inscription on a wall facing the UN headquarters in New York reminds us of the foundation principle behind the mandate of that world body: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Waging war was to be replaced by the dedication to constructive international relations based on peace.

Though that original plan to relegate war to the dustbin of history has not been successful, several of the core forms of physical warfare have been converted into the variety of sports that dominate the schedules of national and international competitions today.

So I join in the chorus of voices singing the praises of Team Canada whose outstanding performances dominated the first few days of the Pan Am Games, leading all other participating teams both in the overall number of medals won and in the number of gold medals included in that harvest. Though we are now in second place according to both criteria, we are at least maintaining our strong momentum.

I also congratulate our athletes from the English-speaking Caribbean who up to the time of writing (Tuesday) had won six medals: Jamaica one gold and one silver; the Bahamas one gold; Trinidad and Tobago one silver and one bronze and Bermuda one bronze.

The U.S. was leading with 183 medals including 69 gold while Canada was second with 160 of which 59 are gold and Brazil was third with 110 medals of which 32 are gold. Further afield, five countries of the wider Caribbean were in the top 10 of the forty-one countries and territories participating in the Games: Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela.

Moreover, special commendation must be given to the organizing committee for the rich diversity of top quality artistic and cultural performances and events featured in PANAMANIA, the cultural component of the Games. Toronto 2015’s Creative Director Don Shipley and his collaborators have done an outstanding job. I was particularly pleased that Cuttin’ Style Caribbean, the Fashion and Textiles Gala produced by Joan Pierre and Associates was a first-class act. (Full disclosure: I have had professional involvement with this project.)

However, as usual, there is “plenty tantana” over at least one aspect of the cultural component. (Tantana means controversy and tension, while kankata is used in situations in which there are allegations of scandalous behaviour.)

Selection of Kanye West as the main act for the closing ceremonies has generated much complaint and protest, based on the principle that such an honour should have been bestowed on a Canadian performer or group. It has since been suggested that the decision was taken for commercial reasons and was justified as a Pan American rather than a nationalistic Canadian approach.

That strategic decision, coming on the heels of the impressive medal count amassed by our athletes which appears to have led to a significant bump in ticket sales for the athletic events, may result in a higher public profile for the Games.

In that regard and on the broader business issues, I have consciously chosen to abstain at this point from engaging in any cost / benefit analysis of the decision to host the Games. I share the view that now is the time to focus on supporting Team Canada’s athletic performance and ensuring that all visiting athletes, officials and Games tourists are well taken care of and made to feel welcome and comfortable.

The Pan Am Games have begun. Let the Games continue. Next come the Parapan Am Games (Aug. 7- 15). Team Canada forward. Team Caribbean massive!

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley