Ten years ago today, February 12, 2010, Vancouver and Canada took to the world stage with the opening of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
As we look back a decade later and as with any and all things Olympic, the question is: was it worth it? Is Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada better off for hosting the 17-day Olympics and 10-day Paralympics?
I will leave that to others to decide. What I can say is, at a time when we have so few things that bring people together, when yelling at one another has been raised to the level of sport, the Vancouver Games were a welcome reminder of what is possible when groups come together with a shared sense of purpose and mission.
My personal Olympic journey began when my old firm handled communications in support of BC Canada Place at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. That was followed by work in support of the BC Canada Pavilion at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, and an all-hands-on-deck effort across 14 clients in Vancouver in 2010. We helped bring the iconic red mittens to the world. We helped bring ice skating back to Robson Square. We helped tell the story of making sure every Olympic and Paralympic athlete’s family was able to attend the games. And we worked with the Rick Hansen Foundation in preparation for what could be last-minute notice that Rick might light the cauldron.
Up until a few days before the opening, there were still question marks about how Vancouver would respond. But as I walked through the streets as the Olympic torch wound its way through, people lined 10-deep to watch it go by, I knew something special was about to happen. Following a couple of bumpy days of mishaps and rain, the sun came out and so did the people. Vancouver buzzed and didn’t stop buzzing until well after the cauldron went quiet.
By most measures, the Vancouver Games delivered. And through NATIONAL’s current work with LIFT Philanthropy Partners (an innovative organization that emerged from a group called 2010 Legacies Now), I was reminded about the human legacies of the games. Increased literacy rates in B.C. More kids participating in sports than ever before (as a time when technology is conspiring against us). More accessible cities. My business and others changed forever because of exposure to new markets and opportunities.
Personally, I made friendships that last to this day.
Some said we signed up to host a 17-day party with little return. As I said, I’ll let others decide on that.
——— Paul Welsh is a former Managing Partne at NATIONAL Public Relations