New era of Canadian tennis begins

Monday was a day of firsts at the Rexall Centre, began a National Post story distributed across Canada by CanWest News Service July 26. It was the first day of the US$2.5-million Tennis Masters Series at the new stadium at York University; there was the first point, the first game, the first set, and the first Canadian eliminated, all in the first 82 minutes.

The new era of Canadian tennis in Toronto arrived Monday, smelling like concrete and wood chips and, as always, money, continued the Post. But even with Andre Agassi taking Centre Court in the early evening, the 12,500-seat, US$38-million Rexall Centre and the accompanying 15-acre grounds were the biggest stars of the day. It was not quite perfect, of course, said the Post. The evening saw a 23-minute rain delay, and inside, the stadium felt slightly bare – somewhere, a concrete salesman is smiling – but complaints were few and compliments abounded, especially about the fact that the practice courts, long hidden, were open to viewing by the fans, reported the Post.

The celebratory theme echoed like a refrain in newspapers and over the airwaves across Canada:

  • The Toronto Star headline July 27 read: “Despite no scoreboard on opening day, stadium draws raves from tennis fans.” While Tennis Canada officials were scurrying all over the complex checking on glitches caused by the facility’s rushed construction, fans who wandered the 15-acre site found few inconveniences on the first day, reported the Star. They were able to mix and mingle in the outer courts and practice areas and the main stadium drew raves, aside from the lack of a scoreboard. Unlike the rickety former home of the event, the new 12,500-seat stadium, replete with 48 corporate suites and comfortable, moulded plastic seats, offers nothing but good views of the action. And the grounds surrounding it, while still a work in progress, provide an intimacy that serves fans well. The Star also profiled tournament volunteer Susan Nighbor, a 60-year-old retired school teacher, who is shuttling tennis pros and VIPs back and forth to the airport.
  • A July 27 Canadian Press story, printed in 18 newspapers from the Cape Breton Post to The Province in Vancouver, described how American Andre Agassi survived the opening round of the US$2.5-million Tennis Masters Canada tournament Monday against German Tommy Haas. Monday’s action officially opened the Rexall Centre, the new $38-million facility that replaced the former National Tennis Centre at York University.
  • The Toronto Sun’s Mike Ulmer wrote that Monday was the first evening of the main draw of the Tennis Masters Canada tournament and everywhere, the old was being ushered out in favour of the new. Across the vast campus at York University, the old jerry-rigged tennis centre stands abandoned, he wrote. He quoted Andre Agassi on playing his winning first round against Tommy Haas in the new centre court. “It was pretty special out there,” Agassi said. “It was a great atmosphere. It feels like you’re playing in the finals and you’re in the first round.”
  • Over the airwaves, listeners heard this refrain July 26 on radio and television news programs in local and national coverage: The Rexall Centre at York University opens for Tennis Masters Canada tonight. The opening and the tournament shared prominent billing on CFRB-AM’s “Ted Woloshyn Show,” CFTR-AM’s “680 News,” CBC Radio’s “Here and Now,” CJCL-AM’s “Round Table” and news programs on CFNY-FM in Brampton and CHUM in Toronto. On television, it was featured on CFTO-TV’s “Newsbeat Today” and “World Beat News,” Global TV’s “Global News” and “Sportsline,” CBC Newsworld’s “Canada Now,” City-tv’s “CityPulse,” CKVR-TV’s “VR Land News” in Barrie, and CHCH-TV’s “Final Edition” in Hamilton, among others.

Bilingualism is best

A study on the brain benefits of bilingualism by psychologist Ellen Bialystok of York University’s Faculty of Arts continues to capture attention in the press.

Tom Fahidy invokes it in an opinion piece in The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) July 28. “As it often happens in academia, two professors, a historian and a psychologist, are at odds, as shown in the July 23 Record article, ‘Language Benefits,’” he wrote. “Bialystok says that ‘…being bilingual helps people not lose their mental edge as they age.’ Canadians fluent in at least two languages will derive considerable mirth from Allan Smith of the University of British Columbia, the historian who asserts that ‘people don’t even think about speaking another language except as a kind of exotic that’s spoken by certain groups in certain neighbourhoods, or by ethnic groups amongst themselves.’ His further statement: ‘it is not like Europe where you are tripping over people who speak a different language all the time,’ indicates that he has not visited any major Canadian city lately. The experimental study quoted by Bialystok has apparently shown that, past the age of 60, monolinguals experience a ‘faster rate of mental decline’ than bilinguals. One wonders if there is perchance a lesson here for Smith and the stalwart, albeit diminishing, clan of monolinguals.”

The Canadian Press article about Bialystok’s bilingualism study continues to gather column inches across the country. It appears most recently in Woodstock’s Sentinel-Review July 27.

On air

  • York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden talked about what makes a good president for any university, following news that University of Toronto president Robert Birgeneau had accepted a position at California’s Berkeley University, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” July 27.
  • Gene Desfor and Roger Kiel, professors in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, talked about how involved Toronto residents are when it comes to the environment, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” July 27.
  • Retired humanities Professor Michael Creal, Chair of the Sanctuary Coalition, a refugee support organization, and a member of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, discussed the federal immigration ministry’s appeal to churches to cease giving sanctuary to refugees facing deportation, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Morning” July 27.