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Furlong: Canada must stay a leader in international sports
The books on the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games are now closed eleven years to the day the Games were awarded to Canada. Canadians can feel proud that the financial promises made back in 2003, in Prague, for a debt-free Olympics have been kept and the vision presented for Canada’s Games was delivered.
We discovered the power of sport to unite and inspire and found that, through sport, patriotism and deep love of country can take on new dimensions.
We discovered we could compete against the best in the world and hold our own and that standing on the podium felt good, and who can forget those record breaking 14 gold medals.
We discovered we could organize and hold an international event at the highest level, with sound fiscal management. The final numbers are in on VANOC, and despite some predictions of doom and gloom, we finished in the black.
We discovered too that if we invested in our athletes and great sporting facilities, that Canada could be a world leader in sport. Our innovative national investment in the Own The Podium program to prepare our athletes was the envy of countries everywhere.
While countries have recently walked away from Olympic bids, Vancouver is surely the example of what is possible. The Games operations were delivered for $1.85b of which about 90% was private sector funded. Venues such as the Richmond Oval and Hillcrest are today operating at capacity with full community engagement.
One goal of the 2010 Games was to build on their success for years to come. And that is happening.
Canada will host the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, an event that will bring thousands of the best summer sport athletes in the world to Canada.
From June 6 to July 5 2015, Canada will also host the FIFA Women’s World Cup of soccer. As we were preparing for the 2010 Games, FIFA was watching—and awarding—this prestigious tournament to Canada. The tournament is expected to create an economic impact of $337-million across the country.
And then there’s Vancouver’s latest attempt to attract a major international sporting tournament—the bid to secure the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series to Canada in 2016 and beyond.
If our bid for the Sevens is successful, it means Canada’s best will join the United States, Australia, Dubai, South Africa. New Zealand, Japan, Scotland, England and Hong Kong in what is emerging as one of the world’s most exciting sporting events.
The Sevens will also be a significant economic generator for our local economy. A winning bid means that we would get to host the tournament for a minimum four years, enough time to deepen our rugby culture and see the world’s best in our own stadium.
A recent report found that holding the Sevens in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium brought in 60,000 fans, 25,000 of them visitors. The total economic benefit was in the tens of millions of dollars, creating 700 temporary and permanent jobs. There is no credible reason why Vancouver cannot achieve the same or better.
Canadians—and British Columbians in particular—are already formidable forces in international sevens rugby. Our national men’s team is today ranked sixth in the world—our women third. We could be first. Imagine a final game against the All Blacks at home. Possible? It is.
Rugby is also being introduced at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Canada will be fielding a team for Rio, so the Sevens is immensely important—a huge confidence builder and right on time.
I hope British Columbians and Canadians will support our quest to host the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series starting in 2016. But let’s not let it end there. Let’s build further on our success in international sports
We have the facilities, the capacity, the athletes and volunteers and we have the will to be as good as any country. And what’s more, we have the fans craving to play their part.
At its best, sport is a democratic and social equalizer. By hosting the Pan Am Games, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Canada Sevens and more, we will not just continue to be part of great global events, we will show yet again that our country understands the inspiring power of sport.
Co-chair of Vancouver’s bid for the 2016 International Rugby Board Sevens World Series.
John Furlong was the CEO of the Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is Chairman of the Board of Canada’s Own the Podium Program and Co-Chair of Vancouver’s bid for the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series in 2016.