Harnett dreams of a home Olympic Games for Toronto in 2024

Just as he stood up for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games when they were mired in negativity before a single event, Curt Harnett has once again backed his city’s ability to get behind Canada’s athletes and host a terrific event.

With citizens pouring into venues around the Golden Horseshoe for TO2015, the (too often) typically Torontonian doom and gloom mentality before the start of the Pan Am Games quickly faded, replaced by enthusiasm, support, national pride and a carnival atmosphere in the city, extending to events hosted all over Southern Ontario. Very quickly the complaints were no longer about street traffic (which flowed relatively smoothly), but the lack of coverage on television. People wanted more Pan Am Games.

Video – athletes talk Toronto 2024 on CBC:


Harnett’s steadfast guarantee that Toronto and surrounding regions would wholeheartedly embrace Team Canada and the Games was correct. The all-time great Canadian cyclist believes that same spirit will emerge for a potential Toronto 2024 Olympic bid because for fans, it’s about the athletes, competition and the national story.

“I do believe in my heart that Canadians do care about how our athletes do,” Harnett said earlier this summer before Team Canada won a record 217 medals, cheered on by fans at several packed houses to finish second overall in the table – meeting its goal. This week Harnett told the same media outlet that his dream is to see Canada’s new sprint king Andre De Grasse “running for the gold medal in the Olympic final in the city of Toronto.”

Andre De Grasse after winning TO2015 Pan Am gold in the 100m (Photo: Alexandra Fernando).

Andre De Grasse after winning TO2015 Pan Am gold in the 100m. Only 20 and already a double world championship medallist, in 2024 De Grasse would be the same age as Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt is today.  (Photo: Alexandra Fernando).

And Harnett is not the only Olympic medallist dreaming about a 2024 Games in Toronto. Olympic champion and city resident Rosie MacLennan will be defending her trampoline title in Rio next year. After the Pan Am Games – where MacLennan won gold – she believes Toronto is “ready” and hopes “Canada supports this exciting and important step for our great city.”

READ: 10 things that made TO2015 exciting for athletes

In an op-ed this week, an Olympian who enjoyed success on Canadian soil (or in her case, ice), Calgary 1988 figure skating silver medallist Elizabeth Manley wrote, “Toronto has proven it has what it takes to host major international multi-sport events. It is a world-class city with a reputation for business competitiveness, innovation, public safety, liveability and diversity.”

Emily Overholt wins gold in women's 400m freestyle.

World championships medal-winning Canadian swimmer Emily Overholt, 17, could be an athlete to watch at a potential Toronto 2024 Olympic Games.

Manley now coaches skaters out of the Greater Toronto Area and knows first hand what local support can achieve in Canadian sport. “As an athlete, the support and love felt from Canada was the driving force behind my success. It provided the motivation to achieve the most memorable performance of my life,” she expressed in the editorial.

With the deadline to submit Toronto’s intention to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games approaching on September 15, differing headlines are already dominating sport pages of newspapers and websites. A good deal of it is from self-styled ‘experts’ whose warnings mirror the pre-Pan Am Games hysteria that largely fell unfounded. In contrast, athletes who have stood on Olympic podiums are telling a tale of belief and optimism in Toronto, in Canada and its citizens to get behind – as they always have at major events – athletes who bring the country joy.

Photos: Unforgettable images from TO2015 Opening Ceremony