Hordes of athletes from the Americas and the Caribbean competing in next summer's Pan Am and Parapan Games might find themselves without a cheering crowd of local supporters from their home countries, a community leader says.
Some members of Toronto's Latin-American and Caribbean communities say they've been largely left out of preparations for the Games, with only superficial efforts made to include them. And with only a year to go before the opening ceremony _ the Games kick off July 10, 2015 _ they worry there isn't enough being done to drum up enthusiasm for an event that should have thousands rallying behind their compatriots.
``There is no buzz in the community, the community is not aware much of the Pan Am Games,'' said Manuel Rodriguez, president of the Toronto Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
While organizers have met with some community leaders, Rodriguez said many _ particularly within the multicultural media _ feel their support is being taken for granted.
``If they don't do anything about it at the moment, I think there's going to be the Pan American Games without the Pan American people,'' he said.
Hetty Lawrence, who sits on the board of the Council of Caribbean Associations Canada, said the organization had to reach out to the Games committee, not the other way around.
The council, which includes groups representing 14 Caribbean nations, has asked organizers to attend a community picnic this weekend, she said.
``To tell the truth, I don't hear about the Pan Am Games out there, I don't hear it,'' she said. ``So that's why we took it on our own and invited them to come to our event.''
Organizers have been playing up Toronto's diversity as they promote the Games, which will bring athletes from 41 countries and territories to Canada's largest city, and deny there's only been a token effort to involve community leaders.
A two-day celebration beginning Friday to officially mark the one-year countdown to the Games will feature an appearance from Cirque Du Soleil, salsa dancers and musicians with Caribbean roots alongside athletes and other speakers. Consuls general for all countries, not just those competing, have been invited, organizers said.
The celebration is being held in Nathan Phillip's Square at 11:45 a.m. on Friday.