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08/28 2009

Torch Bearer Response

2008-OpeningCeremonyMy Torch Bearer blog was posted on an internal work website. This was a response I wrote following emails and comments made by my colleagues about that blog:

Thanks for the kind words and thoughts everyone. It is easy for me to be the ‘Olympic-guy’, having been there and now working on the Vancouver 2010 file for the Province of British Columbia. (In fact, the Olympics are so much a part of me that I am going to try for another games: London 2012). It has been an eye opener, though, to witness what it takes to pull off a successful games – and our games will be successful. Finding out who benefits directly, who benefits indirectly and who does not. Seeing the intricate web of impacts both positive and negative. As I learn more, I am pushed harder to advocate for the positive opportunities the games bring, and can continue to bring to all corners of BC’s society.

We can leverage the games for international business gain, for accessibility in our communities and accessible tourism strategies. We can leverage the games to raise awareness around poverty and homelessness, work safety standards and issues in First Nations communities. I believe that the games provide a ‘playing field’ for all these issues and many more. For me though, it boils down to how we decide to engage with the Olympics.

1968 Mexico City Olympic Summer GamesWe can use the games in positive and negative ways to further so many causes. Through protest we have seen athletes advance awareness of racism and poverty in African American communities. But we have also seen actions that take the Olympics to the extremes. I am not suggesting that BC will be struck with acts of terror, however I know that there is an anti-Olympics movement in BC, and I’m anxious to see what protests might happen.

But here is a billion dollar machine that we can leverage to further individual causes. I have seen low-income housing initiatives grow out of athletes’ villages; I have seen inner city sports programs appear in the wake of Olympic Games. I have seen awareness and development in the field of accessibility grow exponentially through the Paralympic movement. The sky is the limit – there for the taking.

Kids and OlympicsBut above all else, I want the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire school-aged kids across the province and the country to get off the couch, to disconnect from the internet and to get active again. It scares me that my children’s generation has a shorter life expectancy than my own. I look into my daughter’s eyes and I think “no way”. We need role models, we need inspiration, and we get those through the stories of struggle and success that will be showcased in February and March right here in BC. These games can (if we chose to let them) breed a generation of kids in BC not afraid to dream, not afraid to achieve, and ready to disprove the theory on their life expectancy.

The Olympics is not our ‘saviour’, but it certainly can be a tool to solve many problems we face.

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