Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Events: Acceptable on our Home and Native Land?

Are the Vancouver Olympics socially responsible? It would seem to depend on who you ask. With the Olympic torch crossing the border into British Columbia and the 'home stretch' to Vancouver, champions and critics are crawling out of the woodwork, many of them using the event as a platform for social activism. Some on the positive side, some on the negative side.

One of the more high-profile social issues that has been dominating the local media throughout the planning phase of the Games has been aboriginal engagement. In British Columbia honouring tribal territory rights is a very politically significant issue, and has been a consideration of Games organisers since before the Games were awarded. In fact, VANOC agreements with the four host First Nations were signed in order to be able to present the original bid for the Games to the IOC. For some, however, there is little equity in holding an Olympic spectacle on 'stolen native land'. Indeed event organizers are faced with more complicated social issues than ever as part of their activities.

Anyone interested in reading more about either perspective on aboriginal involvement in the Olympic Games may want to check out the following:
* Organisers' perspectives on Aboriginal Engagement in the Games
* Critic's perspectives related to Aboriginal Engagement in the Games

Friday, 22 January 2010

Olympic Update: TravelSmart

I found the inspiration for my first Olympic update in my mail. Apparently, even though I live outside of the City of Vancouver and a good distance from any Olympic venues, I will be affected by traffic and parking restrictions throughout my neighborhood. I live in a designated
hub for shuttle traffic to both Whistler and the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver, meaning my residential street and lane-ways will be hosting buses and eager spectators on their way to many of the alpine events. Not a big deal really...thank goodness for my designated parking spot :)

The notice caused me to go online to find out what plans VANOC and Translink (our regional transit network) have to ease the traffic burden for the event. I was intrigued by what I found.

To prepare for the Games organizers have partnered with local transit providers to create a special TravelSmart2010 website to give Games attendees all they need to know about making their experience as traffic hassle-free as possible. Not only does it actively incentivize transit travel during the Games, but challenges residents and businesses to achieve specific traffic reductions on a weekly basis, with a Games-time goal of 30% traffic reductions Downtown during the event. Every Friday between now and the Games' opening the commuting public is being tested by standard mock closures to get them used to traffic changes. In the first week we've had a 3% success rate. Here's hoping we make some progress for next week, and if we're successful, that it sticks!

Green Games? Green City?

In less than one month my hometown is going to be hosting a little party: the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It’s been an interesting journey since 2003 when it was announced we would host the games. Notice I use the word ‘we’: I realize I’m starting to get excited and take ownership of something I was frankly skeptical about.

As a resident and tax payer I will confess I am concerned about the impact. As an event professional I’m also curious to watch my city, province and country respond to hosting a mega-event of global significance.

As someone who practices event sustainability I’ve been mining the event for evidence of this theme, sustainability being one of the three pillars of the Olympic movement. What stories are out there that show destination sustainability in action? How is this event catalyzing improvements in environmental and socially responsible practices in Vancouver, and its surrounding communities? What lessons can be learned by other destinations, and other events?

In the coming weeks I hope to share some examples in answer to these questions above.