|Olympics for Everyone|
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What new Olympic facilities mean to the local community and success in international sport.
It has been twenty-two years since Calgary hosted the world in what has been called, arguably, the most successful Olympic Winter Games, ever. Now, with just over four weeks to go until the Olympic flame is ignited in Vancouver, expectations for the Games have never been higher. With the facilities at Whistler and Richmond completed well ahead of schedule, the public has had a unique opportunity to experience a world-class sports environment. And this experience will continue well after the Games are over, in what will become an amazing legacy for all to enjoy.
When the Richmond Olympic Oval opened in December 2008, no one could have believed the impact that the 512,000-square-foot facility would have on the local community. Even Gerry De Cicco, the Oval's senior manager, admits that the high usage exceeded expectations.
"By the end of November we had 400,000 visits and 2,000 members. It has been the most-utilized Olympic venue ever before an Olympic Games," he says.
De Cicco attributes a lot of the interest to the Oval's summer sport camps-they had 550 kids in camps last year-and that Richmond has built a culture of healthy living. "We were voted one of the healthiest cities in Canada with the longest lifespan." No wonder, then, that eighty percent of the Oval's members live in Richmond.
During the Olympics, the Oval will be the venue for Long Track Speed Skating, but pre- and post-Olympics it houses an immense complex of sports facilities. Before the Oval was handed over to VANOC on December 1, 2009-the Vancouver Organizing Committee will manage the Oval until March 31, 2009-the public was able to enjoy a 6,000-square-foot fitness area, a rowing and paddling centre, four gymnasiums, and skating. After the Games, however, the Oval will be expanded to encompass a 23,000-square-foot, high-performance strength and conditioning area, two international ice rinks, a 200-metre, five-lane running track and a 110-metre sprint track, new gymnasiums, and soccer fields. "Our sport floor will be expanded from 30,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet," says De Cicco. "We envisage that these new amenities will be open by early summer and our membership base to increase considerably. Prior to us closing on December 1, we had a tremendous interest in our long-term memberships, so we can easily expand to 7,000 members."
The Olympic/Paralympic Park, located in the Callaghan Valley, has been open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing over the last two winters. After the Games it will be business as usual and, into the summer, used for hiking. The ski jumps will be utilized for tours. The Sliding Centre has been open for over a year for teams training, and there are public tours. But for those who want to try their hand at any of the sliding sports, they will have to wait until next season. "Next winter we plan to have public rides on a bobsled with a trained pilot, and have skeleton rides for the public to try," says Paul Shore, manager, marketing and business development. "This kind of tourism is what we want to attract, people seem to want that type of adrenaline activity, and it is something we can deliver."
Both the Richmond Oval and Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies are funded from the Games' operating trust of $110 million. Each makes its own funding requests and can draw up to five percent annually. In addition, the Oval sources funds from user fees, commercial leasing space, and sponsorships, while Sport Legacies will have a revenue stream from groups and organizations using their facilities.
Training Centre for Olympians
One such institution that has benefitted from such funding is the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE), located in Victoria, British Columbia, and a visionary partnership of Camosun College, the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific, and PacificSport Victoria. The Institute is a Canadian leader and brings together excellence in sport and exercise education, community health and wellness, sport technology research, and world-class athlete performance services under one roof. The $27.75 million first phase of the two-phase, $42 million Institute opened on September 2, 2008, at the Interurban campus of Camosun College.
Phase I of the 117,570-square-foot facility includes classrooms, fitness and strength-training facilities, a double gymnasium, a lit all-weather multi-sport playing field, sport medicine and rehabilitation services, high-performance sport services, sport technology research facilities, multi-purpose rooms, library, and food services. A third gymnasium, for national and international competitions, additional specialized labs, an outdoor training track and additional equipment and fittings are in the plans for the future.
PISE is the culmination of the legacy of the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria. Since the Games, Victoria has put itself on the map as a summer sport national training destination. With national and regional training centres for rowing, triathlon, cycling, swimming, rugby, athletics, and diving located in Victoria, and supported by Pacific Sport Victoria-the legacy of the funds from the Commonwealth Games-it was only natural to build on this success and to increase the opportunities for these athletes through the creation of an infrastructure that would bring all of the national team training activities into one central location. PISE, through their relationship with Canadian Sport Centre Pacific (CSC Pacific), which provides athlete and sport performance services, will allow for additional sports to target Victoria as its home base.
"The unique aspect of PISE is that it incorporates sport science, sport technology and innovation, and sport and wellness under one roof," says general manager Bob Moffatt, general manager. "We serve students, high-performance athletes, and coaches from across the country, plus thousands of the region's children, youth, and adult community members each year. We are able to provide an integrated environment for the best testing, training, education, research, and rehabilitation services available in one central location."
PISE is also home to Camosun College's Centre for Sport and Exercise Education, which features diploma programs in Exercise and Wellness and Sport Management, and degree programs in Athletic and Exercise Education and Sport and Fitness Leadership. These education programs, which started in 2006, are currently training 300-plus students and will expand to 500 students in 2012. Under the Research and Innovation branch of PISE, the Sport Innovation Centre (SPIN) is located. SPIN is a partnership of Camosun College and CSC Pacific that researches best practices in sport performance and technologies and develops innovative products for application in the marketplace.
"The uniqueness of the PISE model provides developing athletes, or those simply pursuing fitness and lifestyle change, with the opportunity to directly access the expertise and state-of-the-art facilities at PISE," Moffatt says. "The programs are taught by an outstanding team of strength and conditioning coaches and offer the same level of services as the national team athletes receive. We have always had numerous talented athletes in Victoria, but we weren't able to offer the average person a full range of sport performance services. Now the community athletes can train next to the Olympians and benefit from the same services and facilities as they do."
The Calgary Legacy
Canada Olympic Park (COP) sees more than one million visitors a year. The home of ski jumping and sliding events, COP is the only ski and snowboard school in North America that offers streamlined instructional programming from beginner to World-Cup level athletes. COP also has an ice house, for bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton training in the summer, a freestyle aerials and moguls course, twenty-two-foot halfpipe, and the Bob Niven Training Centre for athletes and coaches. Currently under construction is the Athletic and Ice Complex, which will be the new home for Hockey Canada. This leading-edge facility will include a 3,000-seat international ice surface, three North American ice surfaces, a high-performance training area, a public sport development facility, and a five-storey office tower. The public will be able to enjoy the use of this new complex through public skating, minor and adult hockey leagues, and figure skating clubs. Although known as a winter facility, COP transforms itself in the summer into a mountain bike park and offers a variety of summer camps, events, and festivals.
The Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary is one of the most used recreational facilities in the city. Its mandate is threefold: to enable public access, to offer high-performance services to athletes and sports teams, and to support research at the University of Calgary. Home to the Canadian Long Track Speed Skating Team, "the fastest ice in the world" can be enjoyed equally by Olympians and the general public. "During the day I see all the high-performance athletes train here, and then at night the ice is used by hundreds of skaters; as much as 900 skaters can be here in an evening. It is a totally different culture," says Kameron Kiland, director of the Olympic Oval. When the ice comes out on April 1, the facility is used for events and camps: "Right now we are booked solid until June," Kiland says. During the last seven years, a $6 million upgrade has meant that the Oval's running costs are maintained-even lowered-as more efficient building monitoring systems are put in place.
For Calgary there is no doubt that the biggest legacy to come out of 1988 was the facilities, and that translated into Canadian athletes winning more medals. "In 1988 Canada won five medals, in Torino in 2006 we won twenty-four, and that is a direct result of the legacy," says Guy Huntingford, president and CEO of WinSport Canada. "We now have a good support system through Own the Podium, but athletes still need the facilities." Calgary is still very proud of hosting the Games. "Calgarians talk about 1988 all the time and it has translated into millions of visitors to the city. We showed what amazing facilities we had, and it continues to be a large revenue stream for us," Huntingford says.
With the Calgary legacy being so successful, Vancouver can only look forward to seeing what its legacy will be. With first-class facilities in their backyard, British Columbians can look forward to enjoying the 2010 legacy for many years to come.
"Olympics for Everyone" first appeared in the January/February 2010 Olympic Issue of IMPACT Magazine.