I've mentioned a time or two or ten that I had the opportunity to experience the 2015 Pan Am Games, which were hosted by Toronto. Pan Am is affiliated with the Olympics- and follow a lot of the traditions and celebrations of the Olympics- and is held the summer before the Summer Olympics.
I was very, very, very lucky to be invited not only to the Opening Ceremony's, but to the Chairman's Reception as well. It was a once in a lifetime experience and something I'll never forget. I owe a HUGE thank you to my dad who brought me as his guest and my mom who decided not to attend, so that I could go in her place.
All invited guests were invited to a hotel in Toronto to gather prior to heading over to Chairman's Reception or Opening Reception, both held prior to the Opening Ceremonies. The hotel reception was basically a cocktail hour, lots of mingling and people serving drinks. Not much else happened.
|The crowd at the Rogers Centre when we pulled up|
From the hotel reception, we were escorted down to a nice coach bus and made our way- with a police escort- to the Rogers Centre, where the Chairman's Reception (for distinguished guests and "the movers and shakers that made it all happen"), Opening Reception (for family and friends of distinguished guests/movers and shakers, VIPs, officials from visiting countries, etc) and the Opening Ceremonies took place.
|Rogers Centre before they let everyone in|
We were up pretty high at the Rogers Centre, in the Presidents Suite (I think). We could see the entire venue...it was so weird to be in the Rogers Centre with virtually no one in the stands.
|Pachi, the official mascot of Toronto 2015 (who has 41 quills to represent the 41 countries that competed at the Games), volunteers and the host during the pre-show|
During the Reception, I noticed that there was some stuff happening on the stage, which I original thought was a sound check, and than thought it was a final run through, but was actually a pre-show for the Opening Ceremonies. I didn't pay too much attention to this, as their was a lot going on in the room we were in.
I have had VIP treatment before, but NOTHING can compare to the treatment I had throughout the entire Pan Am experience. At the reception, no matter what your request was, they were able to get it for you. The food was amazing! They really played up on Canada; Alberta and Ontario beef, BC Salmon, PEI Potatoes... Everything looked so good!! I only tried the poutine and the sliders, which were both delicious. Food is such an important part of an event, and they nailed it with their food selection.
|Pan Am Medals (ParaPan Am Medals are in the back row)|
Being a VIP, you get to do things that most people don't get to do. Pachi, the mascot, came into the suite for a meet and greet. I had previously met him when the Pan Am flame first came to Canada and started the torch relay. We also got a first look at the Pan Am Medals!! It was cool to see them up close and in person- even if we weren't allowed to touch them.
|ParaPan Am Medal|
They also has the ParaPan Am Medals on display. I was surprised to learn that Toronto 2015 was the first time that Braille was used on the ParaPan Am Medals.
Another important event component are your guests. They really can make or break your party. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of people there, including; Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and his wife Barbara (who has the same hometown as me...we bonded over that), Ontario Cabinet Ministers Michael Chan and Charles Sousa, Chairman David Peterson, and Pan Am Games CEO Saad Rafi. After the fact, I learned that Kim Cattrall (aka Samantha Jones, Sex and the City) was there and I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get to meet her; at least I can say that I attended a party she was at, so that's still kinda cool, right?
|Some of the crowd at the Chairman's Reception|
Who else was there? Who else did I met? In the picture above, the guy in the light blue jacket? Oh right...JASON PRIESTLEY!!! That's right, I met Brandon Walsh from 90210. My teenage self died. My adult self tried very hard to keep it together. Details of that meeting-which was by far the coolest and greatest thing I have ever done- will come in the next week or so.
Overall, I had a fantastic time at the Reception. It a truly great and memorable experience!
Details and photos of the Opening Ceremonies and the events I attended will follow in the coming weeks.