2010 Games: What a party

This February and March, the University of British Columbia was a host community for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. And what a party it was.

Over 17 days of competition and 37 games, more than 250,000 spectators crowded into the new Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre to watch the world’s top athletes compete in hockey and sledge hockey. Another 15,000 gathered to greet both torches on campus.

UBC Robson Square was more than simply a state-of-the-art international media centre for the Games, it was the beating heart of the city, a place where thousands of people gathered to celebrate every day.

These important legacies – a new 7,000-seat multi-purpose facility and a modernized downtown campus – are major additions to the social fabric of UBC and the city.

But perhaps UBC’s greatest Games legacy will be how students, faculty, staff and alumni chose to engage with this major world event, says Stephen Owen, Vice President, External, Legal and Community Relations. “We witnessed a powerful expression of all the things that make UBC great – research, teaching, learning and community engagement,” he says.

The UBC Olympic Games Impact Research Study, for example, will articulate the economic, social and environmental impacts of the Games. Like all projects in the new UBC Centre for Sport and Sustainability, it will contribute to the sustainability of future mega-events. UBC researchers also contributed to Canada’s performance enhancement program Own The Podium and tracked the Games’ carbon footprint.

As the Games approached, UBC’s Winter Games Event Series provided a public forum for dialogue and debate. These 50 events, culminating with the Sport and Society series, asked provocative questions to advance our understanding of what the Olympics and Paralympics mean to society.

Students worked as anti-doping agents, built the medals podia, welcomed visitors, performed in the Opening Ceremonies, and garnered amazing work experience in organizations like NBC, CBS, CTV, VANOC and Tech Cominco. In total, UBC Career Services helped connect UBC students with more than 6,000 paid or volunteer opportunities.

Through the UBC Learning Exchange, as many as 1,000 community service learners and volunteers worked in Downtown Eastside schools and other Vancouver non-profits during and around the Games.

Under UBC’s Jack Taunton, Chief Medical Officer of the Games, UBC doctors, dentists and scientists led health care for the Games, anti-doping screening and emergency response preparations. The UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat worked to create opportunities for the UBC community to engage with the Games, while minimizing campus impacts.

And when the world’s media came calling, UBC faculty were there to provide expert commentary and analysis on sports science, psychology, the weather, civil rights and myriad other topics.

Very few universities have participated in a global event of this size and complexity. “The knowledge we gained from this experience will enrich UBC in perpetuity– from keeping students safe to engaging in critical dialogue to creating a vibrant campus life,” says Michelle Aucoin, Director of UBC’s 2010 Secretariat.

“It’s fair to say that the legacy of these Games stretches well beyond the corridors of the Arena.”

Games reflections

“UBC welcomed the world as a host of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Doug Mitchell Winter Sports Centre will remain as an important legacy to UBC and the community.”

Stephen Owen
UBC Vice President, External, Legal and Community Relations


“The knowledge we gained from this experience will enrich UBC in perpetuity, from keeping students safe to engaging in critical dialogue to creating a vibrant campus life.”

Michelle Aucoin
Director, UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic and Secretariat


“Hosting the Paralympics has energized our conversation about universal design and our efforts to create welcoming and inclusive learning, working and living environments for people with disabilities at UBC.”

Janet Mee
Director, UBC Access and Diversity


“Our goals were to create academic activities, community engagement and lasting legacies. University of Utah’s experience with the 2002 Games confirmed that the positive impact could be broad, deep and lasting.”

Brian Sullivan
UBC Vice President, Students


“This was a great opportunity for UBC to produce important research on a poorly understood global phenomenon, with massive impacts, as it unfolded right before our eyes.”

Robert Sparks
Director, UBC Centre for Sports and Sustainability


“My Olympic and Paralympic experience was something that I will remember forever, especially interacting with journalists and athletes at the international level.”

Samantha Jung
News editor, the Ubyssey student newspaper, whose games coverage was lauded by the Boston Globe.