By Tom Degun

wheelchair rugbyOctober 7 – Toronto 2015 have unveiled their plans to host the largest ever Parapan Am Games with an estimated 1,500 athletes set to compete in 15 sports including, for the first time in the history of the event, wheelchair rugby.

In addition to the Parapan Am debut of wheelchair rugby (pictured above), football 7-a-side will appear on the sports programme for the first time since the Rio 2007 Games after the schedule was approved by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The event has received an added boost as it has been confirmed that all 15 sports at the event will serve as a qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

While the Pan Am Games has been in existence since 1951, the Parapan Am Games is a relatively new concept – having begun in Mexico City in 1999 and joining with the Pan Am Games at Rio in 2007.

The two have been staged back-to-back in the same city ever since.

But the Parapan Am Games is now one of the major Paralympic sporting events on the planet and the announcement means that Toronto 2015 will be significantly larger than the last Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara in 2011, which is the biggest edition of the competition to date with 13 sports and 1,310 athletes.

ian troopToronto 2015 chief executive Ian Troop promises the Parapan Am Games will have a real focus on accessibility and inclusion

"We've said from the beginning that the Toronto 2015 Games are going to be the 'People's Games' with a focus on accessibility and inclusion," said Toronto 2015 chief executive Ian Troop.

"It's in that spirit that we are announcing the largest ever gathering of para-athletes in the history of the Games.

"We're proud that the facilities we're building for both Games will leave behind a rich legacy of accessible sport infrastructure for future generations to use.

"We want to set a new standard not just for Games time, but for on-going involvement in parasport."

As well as wheelchair rugby and football 7-a-side – archery, athletics, boccia, cycling (road and track), football, 5-a-side, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis will also feature at the Games.

The Parapan Am Games will use many of the same facilities as the 2015 Pan Am Games, including the new Aquatics Centre and Field House at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, which is currently under construction.

Toronto2015panaquaticThe new Toronto 2015 Aquatics Centre and Field House will be one of the key venues for both the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games

Also like the Pan Am Games, the Parapan Am Games will be centred on key venue clusters.

The cluster system, which enables more sports to compete in one place, reducing costs and travel time between venues, was announced by Toronto 2015 earlier this year. 

"Clustering venues enables us to maximize access for people in communities throughout the region and keep costs down during a period of fiscal restraint," explained Troop.

"We're using existing Games venues that exceed the requirements for accessibility standards to enable world-class para-athletes to compete at their best."

Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) chief executive Henry Storgaard has also welcomed the announcement.

"Each Paralympic and Parapan Am Games has been bigger and better than the last and the Games in Toronto will be no different," he said.

"We will be bringing our best teams, our best athletes to compete in front of a hometown crowd under the national media spotlight.

"I would urge all Canadians to take advantage of this unique opportunity to watch Paralympic sport at its highest level, learn more about our athletes and become involved in the transformative role sport can play in your life and the lives of others."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]