Late last month, our publisher and editor-in-chief shared his thoughts about British Columbia’s missed opportunities in the realm of global sports. His commentary, which appeared after Research Co. had asked British Columbians about the legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, recalled some of the doubts that local residents had about our readiness to take on such a massive event.
Most British Columbians have a favourite memory of the 2010 Olympics. Most, also, remember the panic that snowless cities and mountains caused.
A company I used to get a paycheque from temporarily placed its headquarters very close to BC Place. From our offices and cubicles, we listened to the rehearsals of the opening ceremony. Outside, we noticed plenty of uniformed police officers from other jurisdictions.
The lineups at the coffee shops and lunch places were larger than usual even before the proceedings began. The trash receptacles on the sidewalks were supplanted with two rings and a plastic bag – a practice that was supposed to make suspicious packages easier to detect.
Dealing with tourists was not hard. Not a week went by, before the 2010 Olympics or after, when I was not asked by pedestrians to point the way to Gastown or Chinatown. The city’s residents were ready, even if their impression of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was not particularly stellar.
A decade later, British Columbians look back on the 2010 Games with plenty of fondness. Research Co. found that two-thirds of residents (68%) believe holding the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was worth it. In addition, sizable proportions of British Columbians believe the Games had a positive impact on Canada (74%), the city of Vancouver (70%), the province (69%) and the entire Metro Vancouver region (67%).
Metro Vancouverites are particularly happy with the end result of endeavours that probably would not have materialized without an Olympic bid. Almost three in four (72%) are satisfied with the legacy projects of the 2010 Winter Olympics, such as the Richmond Olympic Oval and the Hillcrest Centre. Even more local residents (82%) are satisfied with the infrastructure they continue to enjoy, such as the Canada Line SkyTrain and the improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
It is fair to say that Vancouverites would be willing to host the Winter Olympics again, even if the next available opportunity is 10 years away. In the early stages of the process to select a city for 2030, former hosts Salt Lake City, Utah (2002), and Sapporo, Japan (1972), have signalled their intention to launch bids, along with Barcelona – the Catalan capital that seeks to become the second city to host the Summer (1992) and Winter Games. Beijing, China, will be the first city to stage both the summer (2008) and winter (2022) editions.
If all levels of government feel adequately prepared to take on a different challenge that does not simply emulate what was done in 2010, Vancouver can make history and become the only city to host the Winter Games first and then welcome athletes and spectators for the Summer Games.
The notion of Vancouver launching a Summer Games bid is backed by three in five British Columbians (62%), while 31% disagree. The level of support is highest among residents aged 18 to 34 (67%) and stands at 61% among those aged 35 to 54 and 52% among those aged 55 and over.
Los Angeles, California, will host the Summer Olympics in 2028. This would make another North American bid in 2032 difficult, but not impossible. If the IOC continues to focus on frugality and the exploitation of existing facilities, Vancouver would become an exceptional summer candidate. We may even have a SkyTrain going to the campus of the University of British Columbia, where sports such as volleyball or tennis could find a home. Maybe even soccer, on natural grass.
A Vancouver bid would also catch the eye of broadcasters. Events would take place at Pacific time, meaning fans in North America and South America could abandon the anachronistic practice of relying on tape delays in the age of mobile connectivity and streaming.
The summer provides a unique opportunity to showcase what Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada can achieve together. A successful Olympic bid would place the city in the enviable position of attracting the eyes of the entire world, and not only those from countries that participate in winter sports. Better yet, we would not have to spend the week prior to the start of activities praying for snow. •
Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from January 21 to January 24 among 800 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.