February 2 - Mary Spencer, Canada's Pan American gold medal winning boxer, has joined Toronto 2015 in inviting Pan and Parapan American Games enthusiasts and community organisations to create their own special Games-themed initiative or put a Pan Am twist on an existing initiative as part of its grassroots programme, Ignite.
Modelled on the successful Inspire programme for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, which encouraged an estimated 10 million people to take part in more than 2,700 "Inspired by 2012" projects, Ignite allows communities to put their stamp on the "People's Games".
And as with London 2012 Inspire programme, approved events and projects will be awarded the special Ignite logo to highlight their commitment to creating meaningful legacies from hosting the Games.
Along with students, broadcaster Mark Strong and Ignite honorary chairman Rahul Bhardwaj, Spencer helped launched the initiative at Toronto 2015's headquarters, which also marks the first time non-commercial projects have had the opportunity to be officially recognised as part of an international multi-sport Games held in Canada, as well as being a first for the Pan and Parapan Am Games.
Everything from community youth soccer leagues to culture festivals and Parasport training camps to art projects are welcome to take part, with the only requirement being a desire to help ignite the spirit of sport and culture embodied by the Games.
"These are the People's Games and Ignite is a wonderful way for people to take ownership of them," said Toronto 2015 senior vice-president Louise Lutgens.
"What they accomplished in London last summer was impressive.
"We want to create a similar groundswell of eclectic projects with a Pan Am twist for the Toronto 2015 Games that have a deep and lasting impact on our communities.
"We encourage everyone interested to sign up today."
More than 35 projects in Toronto, St Catharines, Brampton, Hamilton, Londesborough and Ajax joined Ignite as part of a pilot programme last year, with the goal being to reach tens of thousands of residents and visitors in the Games region through as many as 500 projects by the end of Toronto 2015 on August 14, 2015.
"With the Games, we have a fantastic opportunity to foster healthier, more active and closer-knit communities," Bhardwaj said.
"And the best thing about Ignite is that it's driven by the public - everyone has the opportunity to get involved."
Applications are currently being accepted until March 1, 2013, with future application windows opening on June 1, September 1 and December 1 from now until March 2015.
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