by Katherine Wagner/Special to The News
On Feb. 22 of this year, the former president and CEO of VANOC, John Furlong, published an open letter asking people to just imagine: And the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2030 Have Been Awarded to British Columbia, Canada.
My fondest memory of the 2010 Winter Olympics occurred in my west Maple Ridge neighbourhood.
Following the gold medal hockey game, neighbours poured onto the streets.
We laughed, talked and high-fived. One neighbour shared homemade cookies.
It was a spontaneous coming together of friends and strangers – one small example of the community-building potential of large events.
The 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics reminds us of its financial success and infrastructure legacies.
Sports venues have been transformed into needed community and recreational facilities.
The Sea to Sky highway improvements greatly reduced accident rates.
The Millennium Line to the airport and the Vancouver Convention Centre are valuable additions to the region.
There are many less tangible benefits, such as motivating greater involvement in sports and fitness activities, attracting international attention and investment, and the one that is often overlooked – the community-building effect.Furlong writes: “The goal (of the Olympics) was to touch the soul of the country by coming alive in every Canadian home. To matter to every Canadian. Something we had in common with one another. A vision realized.”
The Olympic and Paralympic Games forged, however briefly, connections between strangers and neighbours alike – connections we currently badly need to cultivate and reinforce.
They are vital to building and maintaining the strength of the fabric of our province and country.
This summer, Maple Ridge hosts a much smaller multi-sport event – The BC Summer Games.
School District 42 classrooms will be converted to dorms to house more than 3,000 athletes from around the province for the July 23 to 26, four-day event.
Similar to the Olympics, the opening ceremonies include an athletes parade and a games torch.
BC Games inspire and cultivate young athletes and even future Olympians.
Hosting is a fantastic opportunity for our community and will require the involvement of many citizens to be successful.
Mike Keenan, president of the Maple Ridge BC Summer Games board of directors, explains, “Upwards of 2,700 athletes, coaches, and officials from throughout the province will visit our city and another 3,000 community members will volunteer to make this event a reality. Needless to say, the Games will give us a chance to showcase our ever-growing community while allowing its citizens to come together around a common goal. I’m hopeful that many will step up to volunteer by visiting our office in the recently re-opened leisure centre or by going online to bcgames.org.”
Volunteer registration opened in January and they still need people to sign up.
This is Maple Ridge’s second time hosting the BC Summer Games.
Perhaps it is time to think bigger and consider if there is an opportunity for Maple Ridge to join a bid for the 2030 Olympics?
The new IOC rules allow for a larger geographic footprint for the Games.
There is potential to tap into sponsorship monies and funding from other levels of government.
Maple Ridge needs additional community facilities and transportation options, and there would be 10 years to facilitate the development of local housing and hotel accommodation – and possibly a smaller scale convention centre.
What other possibilities are there?
We can look to the examples of other British Columbia municipalities that benefited from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
For example, the Richmond Olympic Oval was specifically designed for post-Games use and is now a reconfigured multi-sport community arena.
Let’s at least take the opportunity to engage in exploration and discussion around a vision for the future of our community.
At the least, the 2030 Olympics may only serve as a frame to start creating a path toward something we can unite behind achieving.
In the meantime, let’s make the 2020 BC Summer Games the best one yet.
– Katherine Wagner is a member of the Citizens’ Task Force on Transparency, a former school trustee and member of Golden Ears Writers
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