TORONTO — A newly appointed board tasked with organizing the Pan Am Games in Toronto is on the hunt for a chief executive officer — a critical first step in getting the international sporting event underway for 2015.
A headhunting firm has already approached several people and put together a list of prospective candidates, which the 12-member board will look at in the new year, HostCo board chairman Roger Garland said on Monday, his first day on the job.
The board’s top priority is to hire a management team as soon as possible to take charge of the massive project, which involves sporting events in facilities that are expected to span more than a dozen municipalities, he said.
“It is enormous, and I think that’s the exciting thing for the people in southern Ontario to really get their teeth into once we’re able to articulate it more fully,” Garland said.
“This is going to have a huge impact on our athletes and our neighbourhoods all through the (Greater Toronto Area), and it’s going to be fun explaining that to people in the community.”
Toronto won its bid to host the 2015 Games in November, a welcome victory after losing two Olympic bids two Commonwealth Games.
Organizers say the two-week Games will bring new jobs, facilities and housing to Ontario. But some have questioned the investment, which includes $1.4 billion for the event itself and $1 billion for an athletes’ village that’s expected to be converted into a mixed-income neighbourhood.
The federal and provincial governments are each on the hook for 35 per cent of the $1.4 billion — about $500 million each.
Municipalities and private investors are expected to pay the remaining $428.5 million.
Ottawa is still on track to deliver the cash despite a deficit that’s expected to hit a record $56 billion, Garland confirmed.
“My information is that this is fully committed and everybody’s enthusiastically marching together,” he said.
The operating budget for the Games is expected to be around $700 million, the same as the infrastructure budget, he said. Once hired, the new management team will have to take a closer look at the numbers to make sure they can stay within their budget.
Garland said he’s excited that the Games will create “extensive” infrastructure for future generations of athletes.
“I think for our kids and our grandchildren, it’s a huge legacy to leave behind for them,” he added.
The board, which includes several members of the Canadian Olympic Committee, former Olympians and business heavyweights, will hold its first meeting early in the new year, Garland said.
It’s looking for a CEO who has “quite a broad business background” in areas like construction and event management, and can deliver large-scale infrastructure projects “to budget and on time,” he said.
Garland, who spent 25 years as an officer and director of the Four Seasons luxury hotel chain, will be joined on the board by Canadian Olympic Committee president Michael Chambers, CEO Chris Rudge and president-elect Marcel Aubut, who also served as president and CEO of the former Quebec Nordiques NHL team.
Sylvie Bernier, a former diver who won a gold medal during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, has also been named to the board, along with Martha Billes, whose family founded the Canadian Tire store chain.
The other board members are B.C. Lions owner David Braley, St. Joseph Communications chairman Tony Gagliano, former Olympic field hockey player Sandra Levy, Paralympian Carla Qualtrough, equestrian and Pan Am Games medallist Victoria Winter, and CB Richard Ellis executive Andrew Wright.
The last edition of the Pam Am Games was held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2007, and the next is scheduled for October 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico.