With one year to go until the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, Americas Paralympic Committee President Jose Luis Campo believes they can have a similar impact in Canada as the London 2012 Paralympic Games had on Great Britain.
On 7 August 2015, around 1,600 athletes from 28 countries and territories will be in Toronto for the Games which will feature 15 sports, all of which will be qualifiers for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Campo believes the event will be a huge success.
"I am hugely confident that Toronto will deliver the best ever Parapan American Games in one year's time. The planning and implementation from the organising committee so far has been first class and already I can feel a real sense of excitement amongst the athletes," said Argentinian Campo, who was elected APC President last October.
"Two years ago I witnessed how successful the London 2012 Paralympic Games were in Great Britain. I really believe that the TO2015 Parapan American Games can have a similar impact in Canada in terms of raising the profile of para-sport and changing perceptions of people with an impairment."
In October 2013, the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organising Committee (TO2015) launched the American Development Program. It aims to help 28 National Paralympic Committees build their sport management expertise, strengthen coaching, increase the number of classifiers and facilitate access to specialised sport equipment.
Campo is delighted with the results so far.
"This is the first time such an innovative project has been implemented by an organising committee for a Parapan American Games," he said. "It is helping to increase participation in para-sport and drive inclusion across the continent as part of a lasting legacy for the Games."
The first Parapan American Games were held in Mexico City in 1999 and have grown every edition since. In 2003 they were held in Campo's home city of Mar del Plata in Argentina before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2007. The last Games were held in Guadalajara, Mexico, and featured 1,300 athletes from 26 countries in 13 sports.
Campo believes that the size and scale of the Games in Toronto, combined with Canada's track record for staging major para-sport events, will not only draw the best athletes to compete in the city but attract new countries too.
"Canada has a superb track record for Paralympic sport and staging major para-sport events," explained Campo.
"In 1967, Winnipeg staged the first Wheelchair Pan Am Games, whilst Toronto staged the Americas first Paralympic Games in 1976 - an event that saw amputee and visually impaired athletes take part for the first time.
"In 2010, Vancouver staged a hugely successful Paralympic Winter Games and in between a number of other world and regional events have been held there.
"The 2015 Parapan American Games will attract more countries than ever before and I am sure the event will help enhance Canada's global reputation for staging major international sporting events."
The Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games will take place between 7-15 August 2015.