Despite scandals and compromises at the International Olympic Committee, I'm excited about the Toronto Olympics. The Games represent the height of human achievement, and a worldwide movement of intercultural celebration and exchange.
Hosting the Games is a chance to enjoy the world's most ambitious festival of sport and culture, the way Calgary enjoyed the Winter Olympics, Edmonton and Victoria the Commonwealth Games and Winnipeg the Pan-American Games.
It would give Toronto a large, transformative project to bring the partners of our forced "megacity" marriage, and the micro-communities of our far-flung municipality, closer together. It's that prospect that has already brought so many people together in support of the bid.
And it would give those of us in amateur sport the chance to shape the very direction of the Olympic movement and international sport in the new century.
Having the Games in Toronto, with its commitment to democratic, multicultural inclusion, gender equity and urban innovation, would give further impetus to the new spirit of Olympic openness and the reforming activism in which so many Canadian athletes have played a lead.
To be sure, we must address the challenge of social justice in the city. It would be a tragedy if the Toronto Games were to exacerbate the growing inequality.
But no other bid in Olympic history has worked so hard to avoid such an outcome.
The bid has commissioned the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto to recommend ways to avoid the worst-case scenarios, based on the experience of other Games, and to enhance social equity.
The preliminary report provides the most comprehensive analysis ever done, and invaluable advice. City council is expected to endorse one of the report's first recommendations next week - the creation of a residents' rights policy - and to direct staff to follow up on the rest.
Moreover, the very ideals of the Olympics, that we strive for the very best and that the benefits of society be accessible to all, serve as a constant reminder that the eradication of poverty and inequality is a matter of urgent necessity.
It would also be a tragedy if the Games did not bring about the dramatic reinvestment in the city's public and private infrastructure called for by the bid's "master plan."
Our models must be Barcelona and Sydney, where the Games brought huge improvements, not minimalist Games like Los Angeles and Atlanta. The master plan represents the best of the last 25 years of waterfront and urban planning, calling for major new investments in housing, transportation, recreation, the environment and the arts.
The Games should generate a legacy of "sport for all." Despite overwhelming evidence about the health benefits of physical activity, Toronto has fallen behind other Canadian cities in the provision of opportunity, and Canada has fallen behind the rest of the world. User fees in municipal recreation, cutbacks in physical education and sports, downsizing of provincial and federal programs, and mounting deferred maintenance of public facilities have impoverished opportunity.
The master plan calls for a major expansion of facilities throughout the city, distributed on the basis of need, with an emphasis on accessibility. It would be a betrayal of the Olympic promise if we did not achieve a legacy of "sport for all" from the Toronto Games.
To implement all these plans in the current neo-liberal climate will require strong leadership from the city, and strong public pressure and support. But that's hardly an argument for hesitation. No athlete would ever tie on a pair of shoes if she worried about all the possibilities for failure.
If we work hard, we can achieve the promise of the Toronto Olympics. They will bring lasting benefits to all.
Bruce Kidd is dean of the faculty of physical education and health at U of T and chair of the legacy and community enhancement committee of TO-Bid, the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid Corporation