Flame on: Victoria gave a ‘terrific start’ to 2010 Olympics

The Olympic flame arrived at Victoria International Airport on a flight from Athens, Greece, exactly ten years ago Wednesday to begin its 106-day journey across Canada and back to B.C. ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“Victoria gave a huge welcome that was powerful and profound,” said John Furlong, president and CEO of Vancouver 2010, in kicking off the 10th anniversary celebrations.

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First Nations canoes paddled the flame across the Inner Harbour to the legislature, where a large throng awaited with then prime minster Stephen Harper and premier Gordon Campbell.

Among the first torch bearers were Island Olympic legends, rower Silken Laumann and triathlete Simon Whitfield, from the Summer Games. (Basketball legend Steve Nash of Victoria would be among the four cauldron igniters during the opening ceremony at B.C. Place.)

“Victoria gave a terrific start to the Games story,” said Furlong.

It didn’t have a bad ending, either.

“Every Canadian felt they had a hand on that [Sidney Crosby’s] stick,” said Furlong, about the overtime goal that concluded the Games on the final day and brought Canada gold in men’s hockey.

Many, including Furlong, believe the Games transformed the province and country, but has the golden glow worn off?

Canada went on to host the women’s soccer World Cup in 2015, with the final at B.C. Place, but Premier John Horgan’s NDP government has since vetoed the 2026 men’s World Cup for B.C. Place and a Victoria bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The citizens of Calgary, a former generation that so enthusiastically embraced the 1988 Winter Olympics, last year voted 56 per cent against bidding for the 2026 Winter Games.

“Those decisions were disappointing,” admitted Furlong.

“The conditions have to be perfect and you need political and community champions.”

Smaller, more special-interest sporting events, such as the 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, and the Victoria bid for the 2022 Invictus Games for injured and wounded military personnel, appear more in vogue now and more manageable and cheaper as a way to build a community.

But even though B.C. won’t be involved, Canada is co-hosting the 2026 soccer World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico.

Furlong believes the appetite for large-scale events will again emerge within Canada when the conditions are right.

“The 2010 Games continue to be transformational,” said Furlong.

“It gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves and to show us what’s possible. Own The Podium [2010 legacy fund] helps our athletes prepare for the Olympics, both Winter and Summer, and has turned us into a top-three Winter Games nation. And you don’t hear many people saying the Olympic Oval, Canada Line, [improved] Sea-to-Sky Highway and Vancouver Convention Centre aren’t good things.”

The Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Olympic Foundation, Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Paralympic Foundation of Canada are partnering to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The celebration will end with a gala at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Feb. 22, 2020, to raise funds for NextGen and B.C.-based sports organizations such as CSI Pacific.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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