VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Legacy is the buzzword for the Olympic movement.
To win a Games, host cities must not only lay out a plan for the venues they’ll put in place for the 17-day sport festival, they have to say what they’ll do with them afterward. What the IOC is trying to avoid is cities building billions of dollars worth of new facilities that have no practical use for a community after the Games.
Witness the Beijing Bird’s Nest. An architectural masterpiece and the site of some of sport’s greatest triumphs. Now, it struggles to attract even tourists.
The venues that Vancouver built for the 2010 Games are mostly being converted over into community centers. With world-class facilities already in Calgary for disciplines like speedskating, there didn’t seem to be much of a point to leave many of them up and running.
There was some grousing about the curling venue, though. VANOC decided to only build a facility that could seat about 6,000 people – the curlers said they could sell tickets to twice that for the Games. But the city didn’t need another 12,000 seat arena. Instead the venue will now become an aquatic and community center, replacing an older facility.
But what most people are talking about in terms of post-Games legacy for the city isn’t the infrastructure – it’s the energy.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson had already been musing before the Games about how to leverage the energy they were creating, and that was just in terms of using the volunteers.
It’s become far bigger than that. Thousands of people are packing downtown nightly. Ridership on public transit has skyrocketed. How do you, can you, keep that going?
As VANOC chief John Furlong said to Robertson the other night: “You can have your city back but I don't know what you're going to do with it because it's changed."