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The important benefit of the Pan Ams is still to come

Just a couple more kicks at the Pan Am Games if you don’t mind

So was it worth it, this three-weekend festival of sports and games and athletic excellence?

I’d say yes, for sure.

The Pan Am Games went from being something a majority of locals either complained about or ignored entirely to something so many embraced so fully it caught a lot of people by surprise.

There were full houses at events many denigrated – roller figure skating, bowling, table tennis and badminton among them – and it created a general feeling of togetherness that was wonderful to see.

As I sort of expected.

That aside – and the fact people rallied around a big event that included some of Canada’s best and little-known athletes was heartwarming but it tends to happen at Olympics and other major multi-sport festivals — the true impact of these Games is yet to be fully felt.

That will come when a handful of kids take to cycling because they saw that gorgeous velodrome up in Milton, or it will come when young girls are inspired to canoe or kayak because they saw some of Canada’s best do their stuff at home, or it will come when we develop even more world-class swimmers and divers out of the world-class facility that’s out in Scarborough.

The impact will be felt if kids just do something active because they’ve seen the best the country has to offer.

Maybe they just do things recreationally and don’t become world class athletes or even Canadian or provincial champions. If even 100 kids decide to try something because they saw it during the Pan Ams and it inspired them to put down the video game controller and go outside and do something, these last 17 days will have been worth it.

Maybe they want to be bowlers or fencers or wakeboarders or softball players or wrestlers. It doesn’t matter, what matters is having seen this stuff up close they want to be more active, more fit, more engaged.

The value of the Games was always going to be greater than simply the competition that unfolded.

It was, to me, always going to be the legacy of the facilities, the sense of patriotism that they generated and the fact they might spur some of youth to get more physically involved.

I don’t think there’ll be a million kids who all of a sudden flock to sports because of the Pan Am Games but if there are a hundred or a couple thousand, that’s good enough.

These three weekends were fun and fulfilling and entertaining and important because they showed the country some of the very best athletes Canada has produced.

But they will become more fulfilling and important in the future and that will be the true legacy of a really good time.

Someone mentioned this in the mail or an e-mail or somewhere so I had to check it out and it’s very, very cool.

And it is closing time.

So, what now?

The HOTH are dead quiet – Masai’s off in Africa, Dwane’s doing a quick appearance at a camp here, the players are off doing whatever it is they do all summer – and there’s nothing really for me until Edmonton in a couple of weeks or so whaddya got? Whaddya want? How do we kill time here each morning?

Any and all suggestions gratefully accepted here. Thanks.

But after one of these marathons – and we’re talking 16-17 hour days every day for almost three weeks – there’s always a list of things to do.

The Top Five?

Get a haircut.

Loaf for a day or two.

Catch up with the Mighty Tigers.

As many long relaxing patio lunches as is physically possible.

Watch the TV that hasn’t been turned on in weeks.

It was very weird having one of these things at home and I don’t think I’d want to go through another one.

You always work hard at a Games, that’ a given, but the couple of days of decompression on the road are always welcome and usually one of the highlights of the trip.

We walked the Great Wall of China the day after Beijing and having a beer and a big ol’ cigar with Perk was totally relaxing.

Had one of the all-time great dinners the night after Athens at a quiet terraced outdoor restaurant across from the media centre.

London was epic. The infamous Finland incident at the Cheshire Cheese, a long, long walk through the streets was great.

Here? Not so much to do because we’re all at home and the flame may be doused but one day just melds into the other.

So I think I’ll go catch up with Case at the camp he’s at up at Humber, I have an important appointment up in Newmarket after, the Mighty Tigers play the penultimate game of the regular season tonight so it’s pretty much just another day.

One favour?

I’m going to be out in Edmonton so I can’t do much but if you’d all get behind the Parapan Ams, it would be nice and I know you will be equally amazed by those athletes as you were by people who just finished.