Taking in the Pan Am Games

Pan Am Park, Toronto 2015

Back in 2009 when it was announced that Toronto was going to host the Pan Am Games, I was super excited and knew I was going to get tickets.  And over the course of my life, things have always worked out when buying tickets to an event, especially if it’s a venue I’m not familiar with and don’t know what the seats are like. My body size is at the high end of the dress size spectrum, I’m about a size 24, and in general I’ve never had an issue fitting into a seat with minor modifications such as asking for a  seat belt extender or be a bit physically uncomfortable depending on the design of the seat.  Maybe the way the arm chair is built, a piece is digging a bit into my thigh.  At times I have felt shame about it, but clearly not enough to stop travelling on planes, seeing plays, concerts and now the Pan Am Games.

But last year, I had a really bad experience that definitely took a hard knock at my self confidence. While I thought I addressed it, going into the Pan Am Games, I had some anxiety about my seats.

I was attending a play and when we arrived, I noticed that the person I would be sitting beside was of large stature and broad shoulders.  The person I was with always takes the aisle seat (so they can dash to the bathroom quickly if they need to, though this never ever happened), so while my intuition was binging loudly that maybe I should take the aisle seat rather than 2 large people sit side by side in what are already smallish seats, I didn’t it.  To top it off, it was winter time and so extra bulk accompanied everyone with their winter coats.

As soon as I sat down, I knew it was a mistake. But it didn’t even feel like 10 seconds had passed before the stranger on my left had leaned over and said “maybe it’s best if you sit on the aisle seat”.  I ignored him while I took my coat off and got settled.  But in my head, I agreed with him, but was too embarrassed and didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

Next, he stood up and made a speech that he is a former firefighter, and isn’t normally rude but that I am impeding on his comfort.  It didn’t matter if he said it in a calm voice, it still hurt.  I still said nothing and just let him pass when he asked to step out of the aisle, and what later I learned, he got new tickets where he got to be more comfortable.

He paid for his ticket and deserves to be comfortable just like I do, but he could have handled it so much better.  And so could I, which is why I was so angry at this point.


The seats were small and we were scrunched together.

I didn’t listen to my inner voice, put my needs first and take the aisle seat.

That he blamed me for the situation, and didn’t occur to him to switch places with his wife.

That I didn’t tell him he was rude.

That I let him pass by to get out of the aisle instead of telling him that his disrespectful ass can go the other way.

That a stranger in the row ahead commented how rude he was, but the person I was with didn’t say much other than “are you ok?” and didn’t stand up for me when it was all going down, couldn’t empathize with me and didn’t know how to comfort me after knowing me all these years. UGH!

This incident happened over a year ago.  It was very traumatic for me, so much that I got some help to let go of the angry emotions and anxiety.  The angry emotions are gone, but it wasn’t until I went to buy tickets for games in venues I have never been in, I started feeling anxious about the size of the seat and how comfortable I or the person I sit beside, will be.

It sucks that we live in a world where many companies design venues with seats and a one size fits all approach.  I get it, it’s about making money and cramming in as many people inside a venue or a plane.  And comfortable seating is not just a plus size person’s challenge. Limited space applies to tall people or people who have large frames (think muscle head guys) too!

So as seats weren’t going to get larger, and my body size wasn’t going to dramatically get smaller over the next 24 hours, I took the learnings from last year’s experience and ventured into the Pan Am Games putting my own needs first.  The best strategy for me was to choose the aisle seat, so my shoulders or thigh could spill into the aisle, allowing me to feel physically more comfortable.

And isn’t that what life is really all about, putting your needs first to be happy?  I never want to shy away from doing something and miss a once in a lifetime opportunity. My body shape may not be ideal for every sport or situation, but if I can make it work so that I’m not missing out on life, I’m doing it!

So far I’ve taken in artistic gymnastics and yesterday was men’s and women’s beach volleyball.  It was a very hot and humid day of 41 degrees Celsius/105 degrees Fahrenheit to watch 8 teams, 4 games.   I only lasted 3 games and then had to leave as the sun was too intense, but it was still an excellent value of $25.

Pan Am Games, Toronto 2015 with mascot Pachi

Now that I have this seat situation figured out, next up, is figuring out how to get The Hudson’s Bay Company who produces all Olympic clothing and the Pan Am Games to make women’s plus size Team Canada shirts.  I have been searching the internet and the best option was ordering something from cafepress.ca but the shirts were only in black and white, and I want one in red. Maybe it’s time for a petition?

If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment on the blog.





About the Author:

Krista is the Founder of Born to Reign Athletics, a blog + portal website dedicated to motivating, educating and celebrating plus size women who unleash their inner athlete as a means of living a healthy life.  She is an award-winning multi-sport athlete in triathlon and indoor rowing, and is recognized as a global leader in plus size fitness and athletics.

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2 Responses to Taking in the Pan Am Games

  1. Lisa July 24, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    I have completely had this issue and have come away from events with bruises on my thighs from the armrests digging into me. I am also a 24 jean size and I think my lowest point was flying. I had just flown overseas to visit my sister and was doing the short connector flight in the emergency exit aisle. I have the joy of also being tall as well as big so I paid extra to have a bit more comfort. Well the seat belt of course did not fit and when I asked for the extender the flight attendant told me I was not allowed to sit in the seat as I was not deemed “capable” to handle the door in an emergency. She then went and found someone else on the plane and made me go and take their regular seat and gave them my seat. And to make matters worse, I then had to ask again for the seat belt extender. Yup, there were tears, I was tired and this was embarrising. I admit I stole that seat belt extender and now just bring it with me when I fly.

    I thankfully have great friends who will squish a bit into their seats to give me a bit more room or let me sit on the aisle so that I fit better but it is always a worry. The world just doesn’t seem built for us but I just close my eyes and go and hope for the best.

  2. Trista July 20, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    Seating is definitely an issue for me. I’m a size 30 jeans and the first time it really hit me emotionally was when I went to my child’s school performance being held at a local theatre. The place was packed and I had to sit on the steps of the aisle as there were no seats. Even my husband who is overweight was able to sit in a seat, but I could not.

    The theatre does have a few chairs in a handicap section that can be moved to accommodate wheel chairs and they have no arm rests. There are at least 2, if not 3 performances a year that I have to go to for my kids at this venue and the first to times we were there I cried. After that I realized that I just needed to make sure I got there early enough to go and sit in the seats I can fit in. It is still hard. I feel like I’m taking a seat from someone who may really need it, yet I have never had someone in a wheelchair not have a seat because I’m there. It does make me think now about rather I will be able to fit if we go to a performance or movie or sporting event.

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