Pan Am Torch Relay Tours the City’s East End

08 Jul Pan Am Torch Relay Tours the City’s East End

Pan Am torch relay tours the city’s east end Riverdale, The Beach, Leslieville, Riverside, East Toronto Chinatown and Little India got into the Pan Am spirit Torch family

Beach Mirror

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am torch relay made the rounds of the city’s east end earlier this week stopping in Riverdale, The Beach, Leslieville, Riverside, East Toronto Chinatown and Little India.

The festivities kicked off the evening of Saturday, June 4 as the City of Toronto along with The Danforth Business Improvement Area welcomed the Pan Am torch with a dynamic community celebration that featured a full roster of entertainment, as well as the sixth annual Thrill of the Grill cookout on the Prince Edward Viaduct.

Television personality Tracy Moore lit the community cauldron during the celebration, which also included the long-awaited illumination of the Luminous Veil.

“This is a chance for Toronto to step up and so far I think we are definitely rising to the challenge,” said Moore, who said she was thrilled to be a part of such a monumental event for Canada and Toronto.

“It was a special moment. You feel the history of it, the tradition of it and to know that you are a part of that lineage. It’s a very special thing.”

Mayor John Tory was also on hand Saturday night to help countdown the seconds to the lighting of the Luminous Veil.

On Sunday, July 5, the torch relay started off its 36th day with a short community celebration at Withrow Park, which featured roaming theatre performances by Shakespeare in the Rough and Driftwood Theatre followed by a welcome message from Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher. Chris Chen, a U of T kinesiology student, carried the torch into the park near Logan and Danforth avenues.

The flame then headed eastward along Danforth Avenue to Scarborough for an afternoon of festivities that included a City of Toronto community celebration at the CIBC Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House on Military Trail at Morningside Avenue before heading back eastward along Queen Street East through The Beach and paying a visit to the 27th annual edition of Afrofest at Woodbine Park.

Sudanese child soldier turned recording artist and peace activist Emmanuel Jal Gatwitch carried the torch through the park shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday evening and lit the community cauldron to cheers and thunderous applause by thousands of revellers.

“I come from a country that is torn apart by war. Pan Am is all about bringing people together through sport. For me, to be here, it’s a big statement,” he said following the brief July 5 ceremony.

“Coming from being a child soldier to a Pan Am torchbearer, it’s something,” said Gatwitch, who received the torch from Philadelphia Flyers right winger and Scarborough resident Wayne Simmonds.

Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts offered greetings on behalf of Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the provincial minister responsible for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, and invited everyone to come out and support the Games.

“We’re going to have the biggest party Toronto has ever had. Let the Games begin,” Ward 32 Beaches-East York Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon told those in attendance.

The ceremonies also included a few words from Pan Am as well as Afrofest and corporate sponsors.

“In less than a week, the Pan Am Games will be starting in your city. We are making history at Afrofest 2015,” said the special event’s host, Sonia Kyriacou, moments before the cauldron was extinguished.

“Today’s Pan Am celebration may be coming to an end, but it’s not an end, it’s a beginning. Thank you for being a part of the Pan Am spirit today.”

The morning of Monday, July 6, the flame made a short stop in Leslieville at the S.H, Armstrong Community Recreation Centre.

Upwards of 50 children attending summer camp enjoyed a visit from several of the day’s torchbearers as well as Pan Am mascot, Pachi, who taught them his signature dance, “The Pachi Wiggle.”

“It was so interactive and fun for the kids,” smiled Carol Nwoko, the centre’s community recreation programmer, adding the kids were thrilled to welcome the athletes and torchbearers with handmade banners and paper torches.

“S.H. was so happy to host the ceremony.”

The day’s first torchbearer, Etobicoke resident Adelle Dubczak departed the celebration around 10:30 a.m. carrying the Pan Am flame and passed it to Olympic figure skater/North York resident Patrick Chan on Woodfield Road, just north of Queen Street East.

“That was really fun,” she smiled after her leg of the relay.

Chan said he enjoyed having the opportunity to carry the flame, which, as an Olympian, he didn’t have the chance to experience.

“It’s really special to be a part of this and being from Toronto, it’s an added bonus because I call this place home,” he said after his run.

“This flame that I just carried is going to start these Games.”

The torch relay then continued westward along Queen Street East to Regent Park before travelling back east along Gerrard Street East through East Toronto Chinatown, Leslieville and Little India, which welcomed torchbearers with two cheering sections just east of Glenside Avenue outside Pitchfork Company and just west of Coxwell Avenue outside Swag Sisters Toy Store.

Scarborough resident Beverley Robertson carried the flame as it entered the western boundary of the Gerrard India Bazaar Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“It was very exciting,” said Robertson, who also called the experience “inspiring.”

She passed the torch to Etobicoke resident David Yang, a student athlete (rowing) at the University of California Berkley.

“It was amazing,” he said following his leg of the relay. “One day I hope to be a part of the Pan Am Games for rowing.”

Yang was nominated to take part in the torch relay by Toronto Intergenerational Partnership, a non-profit organization that promotes caring relationships between young people and elders. He volunteered with the group for four years during high school.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Of course, I would not say no,” Yang said.

Area residents Kara Del Aguila and her daughters Tavia, 6, and Samara, 8, came out to show their support for the athletes and torchbearers Monday morning along Gerrard Street East.

“I think it was awesome,” Samara said.

Tavia agreed.

“I think it’s fun we got to cheer on everyone,” she said.

Del Aguila said it was a fun experience, especially for her girls.

“It was great to celebrate the Pan Am Games by just going out in our neighbourhood,” she said before the family headed over to Thorncliffe Park to cheer on a friend who was carrying the torch.

Tammy Rogers, coordinator of the Gerrard India Bazaar BIA, said it was a great honour to welcome the Pan Am torch relay to the community.

“We wanted the torchbearers and athletes to receive a warm welcome,” she said.

After visiting Little India, the Pan Am torch relay then headed up Coxwell Avenue to Thorncliffe Park, the Ontario Science Centre, Ontario Place and Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus.

The Opening Ceremonies for Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the largest multi-sport event ever in Canada, are set for Friday night at the Rogers Centre.

Visit www.toronto2015.org/torch-relay for more details about the torch relay.

-with files from Sam Juric

Jorden Johnstone
jorden@gatwitch.com
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