A two-day festival starts at Nathan Phillips Square on Friday to mark the one-year countdown to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.

Government officials, including Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, as well as those from the game’s organizing committee and its partners, Cisco and CIBC, were present for the kick off.

“The games will be an opportunity to show off our beautiful province and our vibrant culture to up to 250,000 visitors from around the world who will come here specifically because the games are taking place and Nathan Phillips Square will be at the centre of the celebrations,” Wynne said.

She told athletes, “In those quiet moments when you’re going out for one more swim, or game or run or jump, just remembers we are all behind you. We are enthusiastic through you and for you and with you.”

Starting at noon, music and sports stars were on hand to drum up excitement. Admission to the event, which the provincial government is contributing $2 million to help put on, is free to the public.

A 7.3-tonne countdown clock by Pan Am Games partner Cisco was unveiled Friday afternoon, and people can hang out with some of Toronto’s top athletes, including just re-signed Raptors point guard Greivis Vasquez, and Olympic gold medal trampoline star Rosie MacLellan.

Facts about the countdown clock:

  • Stands 5.5 metres tall (the same height as the average male giraffe)
  • Weighs 7.3 metric tonnes (greater than the weight of three “average” cars combined)
  • Uses five kilometres of fibre optic Internet cable (more than six times the height of the CN Tower)
  • Took 7,000 hours to build
  • Features five screens each measuring 119 centimetres
  • Contains a metal frame with an aluminum cladding exterior
  • Fully funded and constructed by Cisco and its partners

Those attending the countdown festival can take part in interactive demonstrations and competitions, such as practising their soccer moves and playing foosball in a life-size foosball machine.

Soca star Machel Montano will close the event on Saturday night, which will be followed by fireworks.

Click here for a full list of events taking place over the two days.

Click here for the event map.

The following full road closures will be in effect on Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.:

  • Bay Street, from Queen Street West to Dundas Street West
  • Albert Street, from James Street to Bay Street
  • Hagerman Street, from Bay to Elizabeth Street
  • Elizabeth, from Hagerman Street to Dundas

Watch a video below of Vasquez inviting Torontonians to the one-year-to-go party:

The Pan Am Games will be held July 10-26, 2015, while Parapan American Games take place Aug 7-15, 2015.