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The Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Experience

2. Early Planning

The 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games were awarded to Canada on November 6, 2009, by the Pan American Sports Organization. Soon after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games ended, attention in the world of sport turned to the upcoming Pan and Parapan American Games, which were to be held across the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of southern Ontario in July and August 2015 respectively. Planning for the Games required an early start. Multi-jurisdictional players and partners assembled for this early planning phase, including 13 federal departments, to define the work and associated costs to support the Games.

These 13 federal departments and agencies would deliver on the essential service commitments made by the Government of Canada in a Multi-Party Agreement. The provision of these services related directly to the mandates of the participating departments and agencies. All departments and agencies had been involved, to varying degrees, in past international events, including sport events, such as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In 2012, the Federal Treasury Board Secretariat approved the Games submission, and planning started in earnest. The subsections that follow describe in detail the early stages of the ECCC Project.

2.1 Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games and Vancouver 2010 Olympics

The intended outcomes and expected results associated with the Government of Canada’s support and investment into the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games differed from those pursued for 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games held in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Pan and Parapan American Games are regional Games, limited to countries of the Americas, while the Olympic and Paralympic Games are global in scope, and as such are considered to carry a much higher profile. The Government of Canada’s involvement in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games sought to leverage the high profile of the event to accomplish “non-sport” goals, including enhancing Canada’s domestic and international reputation. Conversely, the federal support for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games was mostly safety and sport centred.

While the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were bigger in scope, and the Government of Canada’s involvement greater, there were parallels between the coordination role of the Federal Secretariat in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and that of the Department of Canadian Heritage for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games. As a result, the Government of Canada’s experience in hosting the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games informed the approach for the planning and coordination across the Government of Canada for this type of event. In some cases, the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Project Team adopted some of the approaches to federal coordination that were used by the 2010 Federal Secretariat, and in other situations the approach was modified and scaled to match the complexity of coordinating federal involvement in a smaller event. The most significant difference relating to federal involvement is that the federal government was not leading the security efforts for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games, as was the case for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Province of Ontario and specifically the Ontario Provincial Police were responsible to lead the security for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games.

The ECCC 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Project Team used a similar governance structure as was implemented for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, notably an Essential Federal Services Working Group, which was struck by Sport Canada and committees at the Assistant Deputy and Deputy Minister levels. However, for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games, additional working groups were created on an as-needed basis, and the more senior committees were called upon where the approval or direction of Deputy Heads was warranted.

2.2 Treasury Board Submission

ECCC (formerly Environment Canada) derives its mandate from the Department of the Environment Act, which requires implementing environmental legislation, policies and programs to protect, maintain and enhance the quality of the natural environment. It also requires that Canadians are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions to protect their health, safety and security, and economic prosperity in the face of changing weather and environmental conditions.

Flowing naturally from the Department’s mandate, during the creation of the Treasury Board Submission, ECCC had to capture its mission and contributions to the Games. This mission was to provide essential services for enhanced weather monitoring and forecasting, for local-level preparedness activities, and to support environmental assessments of projects relating to the Games. The Treasury Board Secretariat granted ECCC funds starting in 2012 to provide these essential services specific to the Games that were outside the normal scope of duties for the Department, hence the requirement to ask for additional Treasury Board funding for the Project. These funds were spent primarily by the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) to provide enhanced weather monitoring, state-of-the-art, 24/7 venue-specific forecasts, weather warnings, watches and advisories, and support to critical weather-sensitive government services to ensure the safety and protection of athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators.

ECCC also provided essential services to engage in local-level preparedness activities associated with the Games. As per normal operations, 24/7 response support was provided during the Games. With the incremental funding that was sought in the Treasury Board Submission, additional prevention and preparedness activities were undertaken under the Environmental Emergencies Program. The key objectives of the Program were:

  • to review responsibilities under the Federal Emergency Response Plan, and to deliver environmental emergency advice to other agencies during preparedness events and exercises;
  • in the event of an environmental emergency, to deliver services and coordinate with other agencies in the monitoring and/or coordination of a response;
  • to identify project components regulated by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999’s Environmental Emergency Regulations, in close proximity to venues, and to conduct site visits to audit environmental emergencies plans;
  • to provide compliance promotion as needed; and
  • to identify consequences of incidents at those facilities.

In addition, ECCC provided specialist and expert information or knowledge in support of federal and provincial environmental assessments of projects related to the Games, under the Environmental Assessment Program. The Program was responsible for meeting its obligations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and other federal environmental assessment processes. It supported responsible authorities who were required to complete environmental assessments, through the provision of scientific and technical advice regarding ECCC’s mandated areas of responsibility (water and air quality, migratory birds, species at risk, etc.) in support of federal environmental assessment reviews.

The key objectives of the Environmental Assessment Program were:

  • to ensure that decision-makers were provided with timely, scientifically sound, relevant information ensuring environmentally sound decisions were taken when planning projects, policies and programs; and
  • to promote compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and provide high-quality advice to other federal departments, provinces and other agencies.

This report focuses on the MSC mission for the Games, which included contributions from ECCC’s Science and Technology Branch.

2.3 Climatological Information for the Games

Weather can play an important role in safety and logistics decisions made by organizers of sports events. For major events, such as the Olympics or the Pan and Parapan American Games, information on long-term weather conditions and historical weather extremes can also be used to support planning and decision making well in advance of the Games. To meet the anticipated climatological needs of the TO2015 Games organizers, in 2013 and 2014 the ECCC 2015 Games Project Office developed a series of detailed climatologies for Ontario, with a specific focus on the southern Ontario 2015 Games area. The detailed climatologies provide information at the provincial, regional and site-specific scale for seven different parameters:

  • tornadoes;
  • heat and humidex;
  • lightning and days with thunderstorms;
  • extreme rainfall;
  • wind;  
  • lake breeze; and
  • Air Quality Health Index.

Long-term averages, extremes, number and type of occurrences were investigated, with results provided in graphic and tabular format. A summary climatological document was also prepared specifically for TO2015, again anticipating their needs. When TO2015 officially requested ECCC to provide climatological information in 2013 and 2014, the Project Office was able to quickly respond to their request and provide the required information. Highlights from the climatologies were selected by TO2015 and published prior to the Games in 2015 within their Team Guides (for the athletes and officials of the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees) and Technical Officials Guides (for the judges and referees appointed by the international and continental federations). Sample climatological graphics for heat, humidex, wind and extreme rainfall are provided in Figure 1.

The climatologies were also included as part of a series of internal training workshops for operational forecasters and briefing team members who supported the Games. Finally, information from the climatologies was used in the Federal Risk Assessment for the Games to assess the impacts and likelihood of weather-related hazards. The climatological documents are part of the legacy from the Games as the new and updated information continues to be used by forecasters, briefing services and warning preparedness meteorologists in the normal Ontario operations forecast and alerting program.

Figure 1. Sample weather station-specific and Games region climatological graphics

Climatological graphics (see long description below)


Four sample weather station–specific and Games region climatological graphics, clockwise from top left:

  1. map of the Greater Toronto Area (inset map of Lake Simcoe area) showing most recent occurrence and maximum number of days per year with extreme “Heat Events” (maximum temperature ≥ 32°C and minimum temperature ≥ 20°C) reported at climate and weather observing stations across the area. (stations’ period of record through 2012).

    The occurrence years are classified into three categories:

    2000 – 2012
    1990 – 1999
    Prior to 1990

    The number of days ranged from a minimum of 1, observed in the Muskoka area prior to 1990, to a maximum of 18 observed in the Hamilton area prior to 1990. The remaining stations across the region recorded 1 to 15 days.

  2. bar chart graphic showing annual number of days (1970 – 2012) at Hamilton Airport with humidex 40 – 45 and > 45. The number of exceedance days for each year are (unless otherwise indicated, exceedances refer to humidex 40:

    1970: 4
    1971: 2
    1972: 3
    1973: 6
    1974: 3
    1975: 3
    1976: 1
    1977: 4
    1978: 3
    1979: 0
    1980: 1
    1981: 3
    1982: 1
    1983: 4
    1984: 0
    1985: 1
    1986: 2
    1987: 6
    1988: 13 (1 with humidex > 45)
    1989: 2
    1990: 1
    1991: 4
    1992: 0
    1993: 5
    1994: 5
    1995: 5 (1 with humidex > 45)
    1996: 3
    1997: 2
    1998: 1
    1999: 4 (1 with humidex > 45)
    2000: 0
    2001: 4
    2002: 7
    2003: 0
    2004: 0
    2005: 8
    2006: 5 (2 with humidex > 45)
    2007:  2
    2008: 0
    2009: 1
    2010: 4
    2011: 7 (1 with humidex > 45)
    2012:  6

  3. Circular Wind “Rose” graphic for St. Catharines Airport showing average (1981–2010) frequency of occurrence of July afternoon (Noon – 16:00 LST) winds from each of 36 wind directions. Wind speeds were classified into one of five wind speed categories (i.e. 1–4, 4–7, 7–11, 11–17, 17–21, > 21 km/h) with wind directions classified into 10° intervals.

    The majority of wind speeds for all directions have speeds < 17 kph.
    Only a very small percentage of wind speeds are from the east, southeast or south direction. The highest percentage of winds are from the southwest, with the next highest frequency of occurrence from the west, northwest and northeast. Wind speeds > 17 kph are predominantly from the southwest.
    Maximum wind speed – 28 km/h. Percentage of  calm winds – 2%.

  4. map of the Greater Toronto Area (inset map of Lake Simcoe area) showing average (1981–2010) number of summer (Jun-Jul-Aug) days with daily rainfall ≥ 25 mm reported at climate and weather observing stations across the area. The average number of days are classified into four categories:

    2.5 – 2.6
    2.0 – < 2.5
    1.5 – < 2.0
    1.2 – < 1.5

    A minimum average of 1.2 days was observed at a climate station east of Muskoka. The maximum average of 2.6 days was observed at five stations south of Lake Simcoe, east of Lake Huron and southwest of Hamilton. The remaining stations across the region recorded averages of 1.5 to 2.5 days.

2.4 Weather Sensor Intercomparison Study

As part of an enhanced monitoring initiative in support of the Games, ECCC increased the number of weather monitoring stations and their temporal resolution across southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe Area. The high-resolution monitoring system, known as the Mesonet, was comprised of over 50 new land- and marine-automated weather stations, including 40 compact stations (see Section 5). An automated weather sensor intercomparison study was initiated in 2012 during the Mesonet planning stages to assess the performance of automated compact weather stations that would be used in the Mesonet and potentially in the MSC core monitoring networks of the future. In this study, data from 5 compact weather stations installed at ECCC’s Egbert, Ontario, Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments (CARE) test facility was compared with data from co-located MSC Reference sensors. Study results were used in decisions for selection of compact weather station types for the Mesonet. The results also helped increase our knowledge of data quality from different types of weather stations that could potentially be installed within a Network of Networks Mesonet of the future (i.e., this includes data from external partner agencies as well as data from the MSC; see Section 5.8.2).

Figure 2.

Three photos of different types of compact weather stations assessed in Environment and Climate Change Canada’s weather station intercomparison study: Vaisala WXT520 (left), Lufft WS601 All-in-One (centre) and Climatronics All-in-One (right).
Photos: ©Hong Lin

2.5 The Games Footprint

The highlighted regions within Figure 3 show the large footprint where Games operations took place. The location of the Games venues in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of southern Ontario are shown within ECCC’s existing public forecast regions. Locations with venues within short distances of each other were considered as a single point or a venue “cluster” for the purposes of our new point-forecasting technique (see Section 8.1). In total, there were 20 “points” identified to represent all of the competition venue locations for which a venue or venue cluster forecast and alerting program would be provided. There were other locations that were used for ceremonies, media, and Panamania arts and crafts festival. However, these locations were not included on this map and were not the focus of point forecasts. Instead, they simply fell within ECCC’s standard public forecast regions.

Figure 3. TO2015 Games venues in TO2015 defined zones, overlaid on ECCC’s public forecast regions

Map of the TO2015 Games (see long description below)


Map of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of southern Ontario showing locations of the Toronto 2015 Games venues within Environment and Climate Change Canada’s existing public forecast regions. There are 13 individually colored forecast regions, with all other regions in the background. The 20 red points represent the Games venues within the 13 forecast regions. Venues and forecast regions of Downtown Toronto and harbour area are shown in the map inset (upper left). Each venue falls into one of five TO2015 defined zones: CIBC Pan Am Park , Downtown, North, West, East. The 13 forecast regions are:

  • Pickering – Oshawa – Southern Durham Region
  • City of Toronto
  • Vaughan – Richmond Hill – Markham
  • Haliburton – Minden – Southern
    Haliburton County
  • Orillia – Lagoon City – Washago
  • Innisfil – New Tecumseth – Angus
  • Orangeville – Grand Valley – Southern Dufferin County
  • Caledon
  • Mississauga – Brampton
  • Halton Hills – Milton
  • City of Hamilton
  • St. Catharines – Grimsby – Northern Niagara Region
  • Niagara Falls – Welland – Southern Niagara Region
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