By Virginia Greene
If you’re old enough to remember Expo 86, you’ll understand why many community and business leaders are excited about the long-term value of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. If you’re not old enough to remember, keep reading because you might just get a sense of what’s to come in 2010 and beyond. Opened in May 1986, Expo 86 ended six months later with some 22,111,578 visits. By any measure, it was a great success and raised the bar for every world’s fair that followed.
During Expo 86, I worked for the B.C. Ministry of Tourism and was responsible for marketing our province’s tourism brand to the world. With leadership and direction from then premier Bill Bennett and key ministers, we made sure that Expo 86 was a launching pad, not a landing pad.
Like Expo 86, the 2010 Games will provide a unique international platform for Vancouver, Whistler, and the rest of British Columbia. With 10,000 media and an international television audience in the billions, the Games will be British Columbia’s biggest advertisement ever. Yes, I understand there are some who never wanted the Games in the first place. Certainly not all British Columbians welcomed Expo 86. But, when the Olympics get underway in February, I am convinced it will ignite the same kind of community spirit and pride that we saw during Expo 86.
More than just a “party” or a “celebration of sport”, the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are a business opportunity for all of us. It’s a chance to reinforce our brand to the world. It’s also an opportunity to tell travelers why they should come back and visit the rest of B.C. after 2010.
In so many ways, the Games are a calling card for this province. They will offer up a wide variety of trade, tourism, and investment platforms. They’re a chance for business and government to work together to introduce current and future customers and investors to our “Super, Natural” scenery, innovative technologies, green-energy capabilities, and value-added forest products.
It may be almost a quarter-century since we hosted Expo 86, but can anyone really claim that the spin-offs weren’t worth the time and effort? Expo gave us SkyTrain, the redevelopment of False Creek, the Vancouver Convention Centre and Canada Place, and an international promotional shot-in-the-arm that lasted for years.
I expect that same international attention from the 2010 Games. We should aim to whet the world’s appetite to visit after they’ve seen our people and scenery on every television station and newspaper on the planet.
Frankly, the big challenge isn’t staging the Games. It is making sure that we’ve got a marketing plan that kicks off after 2010 and allows us to take advantage of the incredible B.C. brand awareness generated by the Games. Expo and the Olympics may be a generation apart, but this new generation knows the value of going global when it comes to our tourism and business prospects. So, like every British Columbian, I’m hoping for a gold-medal performance as we get ready to welcome the world—again!
Virginia Greene is president and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia.