The Pan American Games are bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger

This week the government had a big announcement. I was hoping it would be free ice cream for all citizens, but it turns out I’ll have to keep waiting for that.

Instead, 2015 will be the Year of Sport. One reason for this glorious pronouncement is the Pan American Games hitting Toronto in July. As an Urkel-level sports enthusiast I adore multi-sport events. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger holds one, and more on that later.

The Pan American Games are sizeable when it comes to multi-sport events, third behind the Olympic Summer Games and Asian Games. 41 countries from across the Americas bring almost 7,000 athletes. By comparison, there were 10,500 athletes at London 2012. Pan Am has eight more sports however including racquetball, karate and wakeboarding. There is also a Parapan Am Games in August 2015.

Canada's Aaron Christopher Rathy at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Rathy won silver.

Canada’s Aaron Christopher Rathy at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Rathy won silver.

The Olympic Games are such a big deal that events like Pan Ams are often overshadowed. But this doesn’t make them irrelevant. Games like these were originally created to give athletes a regional tune-up in the years around the big show, and advance amateur sport. Regional games give other sports and their athletes a chance to compete in an Olympic-like environment.

Have you ever heard of sepaktakraw? Unless you grew up in Thailand or Malaysia this sport is probably new to you. It’s kick volleyball and features at the Asian Games, the world’s second largest multi-sport event.


There’s kabaddi and wushu (which wants to be an Olympic sport) at the Asian Games. The All-African Games cover that continent and include pétanque which is sort of like bocce. Add the Central American and Caribbean Games, the South American Games and the Mediterranean Games. They have this:

Frontenis – played at the Central American and Caribbean Games

Futsal – played at the South America Games

Next year Europe will get in on the Games action with the first European Games in Azerbaijan. Baku 2015 has combat sport sambo and beach soccer.

My favourite is easily the Games of the Small States of Europe. (Say that in your head with a Monty Python and the Holy Grail accent, it’s fun) Nine countries or states with populations under or around one million get to compete in host cities such as Reykjavík, Iceland. Which is the most fun word to pronounce:


Anyway, also: Liechtenstein, Andorra, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Monaco, and San Marino. The last two have populations under 40,000.

All of the above games are run by organizations with some association to the IOC, such as PASO in the case of the Pan Am Games.

Don’t be discouraged. You don’t always need a big organization to hold a multi-sport event. You can also be a firefighter, Scottish or Arnold Schwarzenegger. So…anything you want.

Arnold Sports Festival

The Arnold Sports Festival is held annually and is promoted by former Terminator, body-builder and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. With body-building as its foundation, the ‘Arnie’ Sports Festival has a confusing collection of events including skills ideal for Las Vegas, trendy sudo-sports, or simply the stuff you challenge your frat buddies to on a Saturday night.

My ‘Arnie’ Top 3:

Mighty Mitts – who has the greatest hand-strength in the world?


Photo: Arnold Sports Festival

Jump Rope – 984 revolutions in three minutes…

5K pump and run  – exactly what it sounds like

World Police and Fire Games

The World Police and Fire Games are held on non-Olympic years, and offer a pretty fun collection of sports. Seriously, I might apply to the fire department just to go to one of these. They have paintball. Granted, police are probably pretty good at that. Next to specific police or fire events there are plenty of Olympic sports and dodgeball. And tug of war. I’ve spectated a few of these as Canada has hosted the event four times with the fifth chance being Montreal in 2017. It’s a really positive atmosphere for some very respectable folk.


Peel Regional Police officers go at a tug-o-war, Indianapolis 2001.

Highland Games

Tartan, bagpipes and people in kilts throwing heavy stuff around. That’s the Highland Games, Scotland’s most famous multi-sport event, at least alongside this summer’s Commonwealth Games. You’ve probably seen a Highland Games somewhere, since they are held around the world. There is also a World Championships every year, but the most prestigious event is called the Braemar Gathering, maybe because the Queen usually attends. A Highland Games is a good place for a thrower. When he’s done with his Olympic career, Dylan Armstrong would be pretty good.

Caber toss at a Highland Games

A bunch of people getting together to play sports is almost always going to have a good shot at being positive. Toronto 2015 is Canada’s third Pan American Games and will feature some of the world’s best athletes. It has this in common with the other world-class sport events next year, all of which I’ll try to go to. I hope they have ice cream at the concessions. That would make 2015 as the Year of Sport a win-win.