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Pan Am flame to ignite spirit of the community

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield at the recent TO2015 torch launch in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Toronto 2015)

In just over six months Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun will be the site of a traditional Aztec ceremony to ignite the flame for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games.

The flame will arrive in Toronto on May 30, 2015 where it will first be held by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. University of Toronto Scarborough faculty, staff and students and community members will have a chance to be among the 3,000 torchbearers to carry the symbolic flame as it travels to five other Canadian cities and more than 130 Ontario communities before the opening ceremonies on July 10. 

“The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Torch Relay is an invitation to the nation to join the journey, share the spirit and show community pride as we prepare to welcome the best to the biggest international multi-sport Games Canada has ever held,” says Saäd Rafi, chief executive officer of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015).  

For UTSC, the torch run will be a highlight both for the campus as a host venue and as part of the Scarborough community.  Working with TO2015 and the City of Toronto, plans are underway to host a neighbourhood celebration for the torch relay in the first week of July. As members of the Scarborough Host Committee, representatives from UTSC have joined with local sport, business and other organizations in planning celebrations throughout summer 2015 and in building on the legacy beyond the games.

Alumnus Imran Khan (HBA 2011) is a member of the Committee and served as chair of the SCSU in 2010 when students passed the levy to support the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. He was recently selected by Toronto 2015 to serve on its Youth Advisory Council. 

Khan says the strength of the host committee is in its diversity with representatives from all over Scarborough. “There are a lot of great initiatives that the Committee is planning especially the Scarborough portion of the torch relay,” he says. “This gives us a chance to make it our own by showcasing Scarborough’s wonderful heritage and diversity.” 

Committee member Nasma Ahmed is a second year student studying public policy and English. She was raised in East Scarborough and has been helping with the Pan American Games for the past three years. The Committee has already organized two community consultations connecting agencies and non-profit organizations doing work in the area.

“I’ve seen the positive influence sports can play in a community,” she says. “When I learned about the initiative I definitely wanted to play a role. Connecting different organizations and sport groups is a major benefit of the work being done by the Scarborough Host Committee.” 

Kimberley Tull, manager of community engagement and development at UTSC is also on the Committee, along with Scott McRoberts, director of athletics and recreation. Tull says the Committee is building partnerships and supporting local Games-related celebrations and initiatives designed to provide a welcoming environment for athletes, officials and visitors.

“Working with agencies such as the East Scarborough Storefront, Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, Highland Creek Residence Association, Native Child and Family Services, sports organizations, and the City of Toronto, we have an outstanding opportunity to showcase our local community and to be ambassadors for Toronto 2015 initiatives,” says Tull.

She also sees the opportunity to leave a positive and long-lasting legacy by continuing the committee’s work following the games.

The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will be the largest international multi-sport competition ever held in Canada. The flame represents the history and spirit of the Games and is the symbol to unite the 41 Pan American Sports Organization member nations.

Any Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canada 13 years of age or older (as of May 30, 2015) can apply to be a torchbearer.  The deadline to apply is December 1, 2014. More information is available at

© University of Toronto Scarborough