Vancouver 2010: One Year Out

There’s a feeling in the air, a buzz that is unmistakable in downtown Vancouver.  Vancouver residents, and Canadians alike, are excited for a reason. The city, known for its breathtaking views and rich culture, is just one short year away from hosting the biggest sporting event in history: the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A year might seem like a long time, but for those that have been involved in the preparation of, and will be running the Games, a year will come and go quickly. Although the stage has been set, with the recent completion of the Richmond Olympic Oval, and the progress made developing the city for the Games, there is still much left to be done.

Vancouver has long been recognized as one of Canada’s premiere travel destinations, and a center for innovation and culture. With the Games now comes an opportunity for the world to see one of the most scenic and bustling metropolis in the country, up close and personal.

There are several opportunities that come with being an Olympic host city – the opportunity to showcase a host nation’s cultural fortes, the chance to win medals, and of course, the opportunity to build the economy.

Vancouver won the bid to host the Olympics in 2003, and the efforts to leverage the province’s business opportunities through the Games began there. The most obvious industry to be impacted by the Games is tourism. Representatives from both local and provincial tourism outlets agree that the Games will boost Vancouver, Whistler, Richmond, and British Columbia’s tourism to an unprecedented degree.

Walt Judas, Director of Tourism Vancouver explains that although the real star event for Vancouver is in fact, the Games, there are a variety of events that have helped generate the buzz in the city, which will ultimately help the local economy.

“The events that we run prior to the Games – those are the events that help create the buzz in the city – so people understand that now’s a good time to come to Vancouver. In addition to coming for the winter activities, the skiing, snow sports etc. there are also a variety of cultural events to take part in” Judas explains. As many Canadians would agree, February is not the best time of the year. However February marks the one year countdown mark for the Games, so planning events to lead up to the Olympics is crucial. “Doing lead-up events is good for local residents as well as tourists, they enjoy getting out and about. And visitors like to do the same thing locals do, so we expect a lot more tourism in the next while” he says.  Judas adds that the torch relay is really the signature lead up event for the Games.

Currently, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games has planned several events to keep the buzz going until the games. Test events for the Olympics are a big draw, and Judas says that all of those activities help the tourism industry: “these events, they all bode well for our image internationally as a destination for the world.” The new convention centre is set to open in the spring, and with a budget that’s on target for development, Judas reasons that “it’s down to the short strokes to get everything finished”.

The response to the anticipated arrival of so many visitors, Judas says, has been phenomenal. “People are just anxious for the games to arrive. Our tourism plan is built on the idea that the world will be watching, and the world is watching us today. As people begin to pick up on what the media are saying, see these Olympic structures develop, the buzz continues to grow. There is a very positive feeling that’s a part of the city.” Of course, with the recent slowdown in the economy, everyone involved in Games planning has had to take a step back, and look at the financial side of things: not the money coming in (tickets for the Games have sold out), but going out.

“There are always budget realities. There are always things that come up that weren’t anticipated. We haven’t been unscathed. In our fourth quarter we experienced a downturn, and in 2009 we anticipate certain drops from the market. We’re very fortunate to have the Olympics and other events that are good for our industry on the horizon. We know that all the accommodation in the greater Vancouver area, about 26,000 hotel rooms, will be taken during games time. Tourism agencies are working together to make sure there are enough places to stay.”

The goal of the tourism industry, according to Judas, is “to be known as a premier global destination that people want to visit 365 days a year”, and for Vancouver to be “mentioned in the same breath as other ‘world-class’ cities”.

Along with other positive benefits to the tourism industry, Judas says that the Olympics “will help to build Vancouver’s brand, and create awareness that will generate business in the foreseeable future”.

At the Provincial level…

Raymond Chan of Tourism British Columbia calls the organization “tourism marketers”. He says “we anticipate there will be three billion television viewers for the Olympic and the Paralympic Games” adding that with the permeation of online media the province will have “a new medium to reach, with an estimated 1.5 billion online viewers for the Games.” He says “there has been a significant shift in availability of coverage, and we could never buy that type of awareness through our paid advertising.”

The team at Tourism BC hopes that by hosting the Olympics, Vancouver, Whistler, and Richmond will be able to capitalize on awareness created by attention to the Games, so that the province can increase long term visitation. Chan says “It’s really a catalyst for us. We’ve built a consortium of tourism partners that’s focused on five years before, and after the Games, which is unusual for Olympic host destinations”.

Tourism BC expects that 13,000 media will attend the games, including accredited and unaccredited media. In addition, many additional international media will attend, broadening the scope for coverage, and ultimately, show the breadth of BC’s culture. “We really have an opportunity to showcase Canada – our culture, great stories about people in Canada, the west coast.” Chan say that the relationship between the planning committee (VANOC), city partners and the provincial government is strong – helping to ensure mutual benefit for everyone.  

Helping businesses help themselves

Of course, tourism is not the only industry affected by the Games in a positive way. When Vancouver won the bid for the Games, the BC Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Secretariat set about creating the 2010 Commerce Centre, an organization dedicated to increasing the awareness of business opportunities before, during, and after the Games. The Commerce Centre was modelled after a concept seen at the Sydney Games. In Sydney, businesses were invited to share with each other onsite at the Games. The Commerce Centre takes this concept one step further – offering an electronic host of corporations. Brian Krieger, Director of the Centre, says “it’s tied to having an open procurement. We have an open and transparent process.”

He explains that the Centre had a few main goals when it was created, but ultimately was successful because of the businesses themselves that chose to participate. “There are so many opportunities for businesses out there wanting to capitalize on the Games. VANOC has at least $500 million to spend on setting up operations of the Games, and they are still actively seeking businesses.”

Krieger expects that other opportunities in subcontracting are where many companies will flock to find opportunity, even after the Games. “One example of a great subcontract is a company called Game Day, which won the contract to provide 1400 motor coaches to the organizing committee. They don’t have 1400 motor coaches, so they needed to go find suppliers of motor coaches, suppliers, dispatchers, drivers, people to clean the coaches, people to feed the drivers, house the drivers, the coaches need to be licensed, painted wrapped and decorated. Those dozens and dozens of companies that are subcontracted, that’s where we want to help.”

How do businesses get connected?

The Commerce Centre was tasked to funnel the opportunities available to businesses in B.C., and help them understand what the opportunities are. The Commerce Centre created a network, where all the companies available are listed and available for searching. This business network can be accessed by anyone who’s coming in to buy for 2010, and the network is operated by the Commerce Centre team, at no cost to the incoming companies.

Thus far, the Centre has hosted 30 “meet the buyer” sessions where companies can meet and learn about the buyer, what their needs are, and connect with other businesses competing, or offering the same service. International companies are also invited to “meet the buyer” sessions.

Seem a bit too friendly? Although competitors meeting together to collaborate might seem like a tense situation, it is not, according to Krieger. Companies attending the session often face their competitors, and then realize that without them, they wouldn’t be able to approach business at the Olympics, because they simply don’t have the manpower or the assets on their own. “We say to those companies: here’s who else is in the room, go look at this as an opportunity to share with your competitors and develop relationships” says Krieger. He adds “For the Province it’s really an opportunity to get our companies into a bigger space, and to work with international companies as well. But if Canadian companies can get together and build a Canadian coalition together then we’ve reached our goal”.

There are several smaller success stories that have resulted from the efforts of the Commerce Center, including stories of companies led by First Nations communities, who have partnered up and won contracts for many parts of Games operations.  

Sustainability – a big part of Vancouver 2010

The Commerce Centre has not only brought businesses together, but also leveraged those businesses who are exercising sustainability. The Commerce Centre has a close working relationship with Building Opportunities with Business (BOB), which is a non-profit organization that supports local business development and increased job opportunities for inner-city residents. Krieger works with BOB to get some of the listed businesses into the Commerce network. He says that somewhere around 150 companies have been added to the network from BOB. Krieger adds that the Commerce Centre is working with VANOC to make sure that companies that are added to the network “don’t just come in and tell us who they are, what they do, and how they do it, but they also tell us what their sustainability commitments are. We can search our database and find companies that are run by First Nations people; there are 65 businesses that are Aboriginal-owned and another 70 or 80 that employ 50% or more Aboriginal staff”.

Whether or not Canada sweeps the Games in gold medals, there are certainly thousands of businesses who will grow bigger and better simply by having the opportunity to capitalize on the Games. Krieger says that more than just helping the economy, Vancouver 2010 really allows the province of B.C. to “showcase what Canada is great at when the world comes to the Games”.  Industries like clean tech, new media, and retail can capitalize on the Games, regardless of economic conditions facing the country currently.

For more information on the 2010 Commerce Centre, visit www.2010commercecentre.com.  Visit www.hellobc.com or www.tourismvancouver.com to get more information about the Games.

Quick facts about the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games:

- Number of Olympic athletes and officials: 5,500

- Number of Paralympic athletes and officials: 1,350

- Countries participating in Olympic Winter Games: 80+

- Countries participating in Paralympic Winter Games: 40+

- 2010 Olympic Winter Games events tickets available: 1.6 million

- 2010 Paralympic Winter Games events tickets available: 250,000

- Estimated number of media representatives: 10,000

- Estimated number of Games volunteers: 25,000

Vancouver will host the following Olympic and Paralympic events in February and March of 2010:

- Opening and Closing ceremonies (BC Place Stadium)

- Ice hockey (Canada Hockey Place and UBC Thunderbird Arena)

- Figure skating (Pacific Coliseum)

- Speed skating and short track speed skating (Richmond Olympic Oval and Pacific Coliseum)

- Freestyle skiing (Cypress Mountain)

- Snowboard (Cypress Mountain)

- Curling (Vancouver Olympic Centre)

- Ice sledge hockey (UBC Thunderbird Arena)

Wheelchair curling (Vancouver Paralympic Centre)

For more information on countdown activities, visit www.tourismvancouver.com.

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