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Worth playing the game?

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Well, after months of waiting, the Pan Am Games have finally arrived.

And after billions of dollars spent, drivers inconvenienced through HOV lanes and the like, how has the international event affected us?

In Oshawa, to be honest, not so much. If you don’t find yourself driving near the General Motors Centre – sorry, the Oshawa Sports Centre – you likely wouldn’t even know the games had started.

The first few days of competition in Oshawa have seen crowds never amounting to more than a few hundred – the empty seats would be glaring if you saw them on television.

Other events have seen similar sites, with tickets allegedly being given away in order to make venues seem fuller.

While it made sense for Oshawa to agree to participate in the games – this means the GM Centre is being rented out for a couple weeks, giving money to the city and paying the arena’s employees to keep working for a bit now that the Gens’ season is done – residents may soon be feeling the brunt of a games that was operated at a financial loss.

This is, of course, typical for many sports events that take place on a mass scale. It isn’t uncommon to hear of cities and countries losing money while hosting the Olympics, for example. The 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia lost USD$2.1 billion. The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy lost USD$3.2 million. The 1976 Olympics in Montreal famously saw the $990-million debt being paid off over 30 years.

So how will the people of the province fair after the books are settled for the Pan Am Games that, at a budget of more than $2.5 billion, will be the most expensive in the event’s history?

These games need to be a success in order for that cost to be worth it and, right now, all we’re seeing is a slew of empty seats.

To the credit of the athletes who work so hard, at least get out, show your support and fill up those empty seats.