Vancouver 2010 - recognizing excellence on the world's largest stage
by Toby Barazzuol on Monday Feb 15, 2010
Last week, the 2010 Winter Olympics arrived in Vancouver after years of anticipation, excitement and curiosity. The games have already proven to be an exciting spectacle and will surely be remembered forever in our city, but what do they mean for local businesses?
From a business perspective, the experience has been an interesting combination of highs and lows. When we first learned that Vancouver was to host the Olympics, it seemed as though the future horizon was lined with low hanging gold and silver. The games would be in our laps and none of us would be able to avoid the opportunities they presented. One of the world’s most prestigious recognition awards events was going to be held here celebrating excellence– how could we not be a part of it?
Alas, it didn’t turn out quite that way….the bidding process was foreign and unclear. Could we really bid? On what? If so, how? And what was this thing called “sustainability” that they kept referring to in their bid requests? In truth, I didn’t understand the term sustainability at that time, but I realized that we would have to learn about it if we were going to earn any Olympic contracts. Little did I know that sustainability would eventually become the most defining principle of our company’s operations and philosophy.
In fact, I’ve come to believe that understanding sustainability is the single greatest investment that a business can make towards its future success.
So when people ask if the 2010 Olympics will be the “greenest games ever”, I tend to agree. Sure, there is tremendous room for improvements and there will be greener games in the future, but VANOC has done a great job of raising the sustainability bar. I believe that this will be their legacy – all of the people and organizations that they inspired and guided towards learning about sustainability. They have helped propel an army of small businesses into being green leaders and in part, that is why Vancouver is at the leading edge of sustainability and green business.
From a purely financial perspective though, things haven’t been quite as bright. I don’t know any business that have profited directly from the games. We pursued award contracts and leads for nearly 3 years before finally resigning ourselves to spectators a couple of years ago. As a small business located in Vancouver’s Dowtown Eastside and committed to sustainability and our community – qualities supposedly coveted by VANOC – it was a little hard to accept and believe, but we moved on to other exciting projects making awards for the COP15 Copenhagen Conference and developing LEED Plaques (pictured here) for the Canadian Green Building Council.
Recently, we were lucky enough to do use some of our newly designed Canopy Eco-Awards (see top and bottom images) to recognize VANOC’s Champions of Sustainability. We’ve also been providing some of our LEED Plaques to some of the green Olympic Venues such as the Richmond Olympic Oval. I think the work we’ve done in previous years around sustainability has allowed us to create these green awards that didn’t exist before, and so using them to recognize VANOC and the Olympics is kind of fitting.
Did the Winter Olympics bring us a financial windfall of opportunity? I really don't think so.
Did they help set the stage for a new generation of green businesses to emerge to the forefront of the world’s stage? I really think that they did.
In the bigger picture, which do you think is more valuable?