By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
SYDNEY -- Sandra Levy was barely 10 years old and watching the Montreal Olympics on television when she made a decision -- she wanted to be an Olympic athlete.
She believes the youth of Canada will be just as inspired should Toronto be awarded the 2008 Summer Games.
"Living in Toronto, with 190 different cultures and languages, is like living in an Olympic village 365 days a year,'' said the former field-hockey player, current lawyer and member of the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid team. Levy came across as the strongest Toronto salesman in an Olympic news conference on Tuesday, which had Toronto Raptors star Vince Carter front and centre along with Canadian Olympian Gaetan Boucher.
"I was so inspired by what I had seen on television from Montreal, it motivated me towards having a 13-year international sporting career.''
The Toronto bid, trying to sell itself internationally for the first time, continues to put athletes first, involving them in all decisions, having them do the majority of the Toronto talking.
On Tuesday, however, they may have been preaching to the converted.
The news conference at the Main Press Centre at the Olympic Village attracted a media crowd of about 80 reporters, the majority of whom were either Canadian or American basketball writers, the latter interested more in Carter than the Olympic bid. A few Japanese reporters were there, with Osaka also bidding for 2008, but if the intent was to entice the international press, the bid group was unsuccessful.
Carter, who wouldn't commit to even being a Raptor by the year 2008, said he chose to get involved with Toronto's bid because of his appreciation for the city. He said he knew almost nothing about Toronto before living there. "If you had asked me about Canada, I couldn't have told you.'' he said. "I think Toronto is a great city, not just because I play there. It's a clean, safe city.''
At the news conference, two rather unspectacular videos were shown -- one showing highlights of Toronto that didn't particularly look like Toronto and one showing highlights of Carter, which looked like it was made from someone's home video recorder.
Toronto will have to clean up its technical act if it is to have any chance of winning the bid next year. Presentations this week by Paris and Osaka were far more advanced than Toronto's pitch.
Questions, meanwhile, continue to be raised regarding the Toronto group's ability to adequately transport Olympic athletes and media in a limited downtown area.
The biggest flaw of the Sydney Olympics is a transport system that is failing miserably.
When asked how he can be certain of transporting Olympic family members when the past two Olympics haven't been able to do so and Sydney has a far more diverse public transit system than Toronto, bid chairman John Bitove answered that he's confident his plan can work.