Here’s a trip down memory lane: it was 10 years ago today that Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The night before that big day in 2003, my family and I were down at Canada Place watching the Canada Day fireworks. We got home pretty late (late for a teenager at the time), just past midnight, and in just a few hours we would have to wake up early as we had tickets to watch a live broadcast of the announcement of the 2010 host city at GM Place (now known as Rogers Arena).
I still remember it being a sunny and warm morning, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. And for added luck, an entire family of raccoons (6 to be exact) were binning in the backyard right in the path to our garage. It took a minute to shoo them away, they made a huge mess but we decided to clean it up after we got back from the announcement. We didn’t want to be late.
“Decision 2010” started at 6 am and was sponsored by Telus, a major partner of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Committee. Ironically, a year after this historic day, despite its major contributions to help bring the Olympics to the city the locally-based company failed to win a major VANOC telecommunications sponsorship contract. It instead went to their largest competitor, Bell Canada.
I recall being greeted by cheery bid volunteers at the door and we were each given goodies upon entry: a boxed breakfast, some Olympic bid pins, a Canada flag, and a white towel (“towel power”) with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic bid logo printed onto it. You could really sense the air of anticipation and nervousness once you were inside. People were hopeful, but they were also fearful.
By this time, all three cities vying for Olympic glory – Vancouver, Pyeongchang (South Korea), and Salzburg (Austria) – had already made their hour-long final presentations to the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Vancouver’s presentation had some very high rollers, including the likes of both Wayne Gretzky and Prime Minister Jean Chretien whom both flew to Prague, Czech Republic to state their passionate cases to the IOC.
Back in Vancouver, the event inside the arena also began with some speeches made by government officials and once that was over, the stadium’s centre ice jumbo screens (which have since been replaced by a much larger HD model) switched over to the CBC’s live coverage of the IOC Session in Prague.
There were 15,000 people inside GM Place that early morning; each and every one of us inside the arena were there to see history waiver towards our side. Red and white was the theme in the crowds, even though we had already celebrated Canada Day just hours earlier, and some even went as far as painting their faces for this early morning affair. Maple leafs and Canada flags were aplenty.
Many also brought to the event their homemade signs, carrying messages such as “Our Time To Shine”, “We’re Backing The Bid!” and “Waiting Since Calgary”.
We wanted and believed in what this win would do for Vancouver.
Our seats were located on the first row of the upper balcony, and at eye level were the jumbo screens. We nervously watched as IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that a city had been eliminated from the running as it had received the lowest number of votes.
Under the IOC’s rules for electing host cities, a winner is decided by receiving a majority (50%+) of the ~110 available delegate votes. The candidate city that receives the least number of votes is eliminated and another round of voting begins until there are just two bid cities going head on against each other or when a city has won a majority of the votes.
Fortunately for Vancouver, the city that was eliminated in Round One was the Austrian city of Salzburg (side note, the birthplace of Mozart). That meant one more round of voting would happen immediately, and it would be between Vancouver and Pyeongchang. We also had every reason to be even more worried and stressed as while Salzburg was eliminated after receiving only 16 votes, Pyeongchang had trumped Vancouver’s 40 votes with its 51 votes.
Will the tides turn in our favour? How will Salzburg’s votes transfer over to the two remaining cities in the final round of voting?
We would find out about 30 minutes later during the live world broadcast of the host city announcement. During that time, programming inside the arena included the screening of two stunning “secret” Bid Videos set to a Bryan Adams ballad, made by the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Committee as part of Vancouver’s final presentation to the IOC earlier in the day. These videos would make any Vancouverite and Canadian proud:
Video 1: “Our Home.“ A beautifully made introduction video to Vancouver’s final presentation showing scenes of the city, landscape, culture, and people of Vancouver and British Columbia. Song – “Here I Am” by Bryan Adams.
Video 2: “Our Dream.“ A second and longer video was played later on in the final presentation, showing scenes of what Vancouver would look like during the 2010 Olympics. Could you imagine Olympic rings on the sides of the Lions Gate Bridge and Burrard Street Bridge, or even a set of super large rings glowing at night on the waters of False Creek? Unfortunately, all three ideas were canned years later to cut down on costs at the height of the recession. Another big idea, to use the roofline of BC Place Stadium as a ginormous cauldron, probably didn’t meet basic safety standards (aside from the sheer cost and amount of natural gas required). Song – “Here I Am” by Bryan Adams.
Just after 8 am, the announcement ceremony began and was televised on the stadium’s jumbo screens. This was eternity to us all.
As the moment neared, the stadium turned eerily dead quiet: heads began to shift downward for fears of hearing an undesirable city name, while others tilted their heads up high to watch the words being shaped by Jacques Rogge’s mouth – all the while with their fingers crossed, of course.
Then, at 8:41 am PST, he said it. “The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing that the 21st Olympic Winter Games in 2010 are awarded to the city of Vancouver.”
Watch the announcement and the crowd’s electrifying reaction:
All 15,000 people inside GM Place jumped up from their seats and erupted with a roar, just as how the crowds inside this very same arena would react when Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal to win the men’s Olympic hockey gold seven years later. Within seconds of the pronunciation of “Fun-ku-va”, fireworks went off inside the arena and we were doused with streamers and confetti. The jumbo screens above centre ice also began to blink with “YES!” graphics.
We also made use of the Olympic bid towels we were given at the door, we immediately began to madly wave and swing our towels around in the air as if we had just seen the Vancouver Canucks score a Stanley Cup Final OT goal. A giant Canadian flag, the size of several cars parked side by side, also began to make its rounds across the stadium floor through the mobile hands of an ecstatic and jubilant crowd.
The standing, jumping, towel power swinging, and deafening loud roaring and screaming cheers continued for nearly 10 minutes.
Outside the arena in the streets of downtown Vancouver, car horns blazed everywhere as people ran and cheered through the streets in red and white with their Canadian flags just as they would again seven years later. Over at Whistler Village, thousands more were celebrating after crowding into Village Square to watch the announcement on a big outdoor screen.
Later in the day, when we got home, we found out Vancouver had won the Olympic title against Pyeongchang (a town of 50,000 people) by merely 3 votes: 56-53. It was too close, but it did the job – it was a photo finish.
At this little corner of the country, we had another Canada Day in our hands for the second consecutive day. It was this very day that completely changed Vancouver and Whistler’s physical landscape, our self-identity, and the course of our collective history.
“Today, we have absolutely moved a mountain.” And arguably, ten years later, it was all for the better.
The Official Vancouver 2010 Bid Video. “Our Time To Shine”, as played in the video below, was also the theme song to Vancouver’s bid.