It was hard to disguise 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics committee CEO John Furlong’s sense of satisfaction and national pride during his speech at the Games closing ceremonies. Furlong writes that while serious discussions must be had and tough decisions made before deciding to host an event like the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the long-term effects of hosting can be well worth the risks. Photo public domain

OPINION: 2010 Winter Games CEO fully behind Victoria’s Commonwealth Games bid

John Furlong sees opportunity as chance to continue building country’s stellar rep as event host

John Furlong

GUEST COLUMN

Canada’s reputation and track record as a host nation for major events in sport, business, the arts and politics is, in a word, “stellar.”

We take the approach in Canada to use major events to achieve compelling long lasting legacies. We punch way above our weight class. Canadians rally to events that contribute to nation building, events with vision and purpose that are thoughtfully planned and executed to achieve the broadest amount of good.

As far back as Expo 67, the key underlying driver for these influential global initiatives has been to enhance the Canada brand and produce impressive, long-lasting legacies. Canadians are thoughtful planners, creative thinkers and disciplined managers. Promises made here are promises kept.

Canadians hold themselves accountable to the public first and instinctively understand the need for prudence and financial integrity.

Major event proposals born from selfless noble ideals tend to attract support from community, governments and corporations. They unite us – lift us up. The best examples may well be Expo 67, Expo 86, Calgary 88, the Victoria Commonwealth Games, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Vancouver Olympics, the Pan-American Games and just last month, the Invictus Games in Toronto. All were inspired by values and ideals, all hotly debated and the record shows that each produced spectacular results.

We can all remember the debate that preceded the Vancouver 2010 Games, the public plebiscite, the doubts raised and the chorus of critics along the way. The scrutiny was intense. But today the global view of Vancouver 2010 is enormously positive; the Games are a matter of great pride to Canadians and the financial promises made were all kept. The Games were delivered on time and on budget and the operations were 90-plus per cent private sector – all of this in spite of the great global financial meltdown that threatened their delivery. While Canadians feel proud, it’s important to understand that the results were in line with what is expected in Canada. This is who we are.

In 2010, the global FutureBrand survey listed Canada as the top country brand, an honour attributed to the success of the Olympics. Canada is an international hosting star and Canadians are recognized as tough, reliable and collaborative. It matters to us that we succeed.

Big events allow countries to achieve global recognition, economic development and physical and social legacies on their own terms. Victoria 1994 is well remembered for its quality delivery, inspired atmosphere and impressive management.

The legacies of those Games have touched a generation of young Canadians in the most positive way. Victoria made promises that were kept and gave the world a truly unforgettable athletic experience and Canadian welcome. Victoria emerged strident from those Games transformed, confident and proud.

Pre-Victoria 1994 there was a debate much like there is today. A necessary part of good planning. But there is no better endorsement for something grand than your own track record. It’s good to ask questions and to take a measured approach. Some answers are easy and some not.

The answers that matter the most may well be to these questions: Do we believe in our city, our citizens and the potential to do great good? And can the 2022 Commonwealth Games propel the city of Victoria forward, inspire Canadians and deliver impressive lasting legacies? I believe in us and relish the view that this opportunity for Victoria will be transformational and expose the grit, determination and creativity of our city and make some new history.

Instead of second-guessing ourselves let’s get on board and show the art of what is possible when trusted to Canadian hands. It’s easy to duck and decline – it takes courage and belief to try.

John Furlong is a member of the 2022 Victoria Commonwealth Games bid committee and was the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games organizing committee.

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