Bruce Dewar: 2010 Olympics and Paralympics were about more than just games

The lighting of the Olympic cauldron 10 years ago this month not only served as the formal kickoff of Vancouver’s Winter Olympics, but kick-started a legacy of philanthropy and public service that went beyond sports and sport-related facilities, says Bruce Dewar.

Ric Ernst / PNG files

February marks the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

For those of us lucky enough to have been in B.C. for those 17 days in February (and 10 days in March during the Paralympics), we saw the city and province come alive in ways few of us could ever have imagined. When Sidney Crosby scored his “golden goal” to deliver the men’s hockey gold, Vancouver and Canada erupted in a shared sense of relief, celebration and pride. Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada had delivered.

As we look back to 2010 with fond memories and nostalgia, there are obvious questions: Was it worth it? Is Vancouver better off from hosting the Games? Did Games proponents deliver on their promise of legacies?

As a board member of Tourism Vancouver, I was involved from the outset of the domestic bid and then worked on the international bid for the Games. Throughout the process, we talked about legacies beyond bricks and mortar. We wanted to redefine legacies within the Olympic family, looking at how sports and the Olympic movement could be a catalyst of social, cultural and community legacies that would truly benefit communities long after the Olympic cauldron was extinguished.

As part of the Games journey, I became CEO of an organization called 2010 Legacies Now — a non-profit organization arm’s length from all three levels of government, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Vanoc (Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee). We worked with communities and organizations across the province to discover and create inclusive social and economic opportunities. Delivered through partnerships, our work affected more than two million people across B.C. by 2010, creating legacies in sport participation, improved literacy, sport tourism, accessible tourism and accessible communities, arts and more.

ViaSport, established in 2011 by 2010 Legacies Now in consultation with the provincial sport system, continues to lead a consultative and co-ordinated provincewide approach to increase participation in sport and physical activity. Today, the amateur sports sector in British Columbia is thriving. On average, more than 718,000 athletes register for organized sports every year, with over 16,000 coaches attending training sessions. B.C. has outperformed other provincial and territorial jurisdictions in the number of registered athletes on national teams, with 38 per cent of Canada’s 2018 Olympic team tied in some way to B.C.

Sidney Crosby and Scott Niedermayer celebrate after Canada’s ‘golden goal’ won Olympic gold for its men’s hockey team over the United States in overtime at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Feb. 28, 2010.


AFP/Getty Images files

The Games and 2010 Legacies Now have been instrumental in increasing literacy levels in marginalized communities in the province. 2010 Legacies Now helped to establish Decoda Literacy Solutions, a provincial organization committed to the development of strong individuals, families and communities by providing literacy resources and training. Over the last decade, Decoda supported children and families, youth, adults, seniors, Indigenous and immigrant communities through community-based literacy programs and initiatives in more than 400 communities across B.C., benefiting 1.6 million people.

We worked closely with B.C.’s own Rick Hansen Foundation and other partners to tap into the growing accessibility tourism market and awareness created by the Games to ensure ours were the most accessible. We then transitioned 2010 Legacies Now’s accessible tourism program to the Hansen foundation, where they used the tools and resources as the basis for the highly successful Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) rating system. More than 1,200 buildings across Canada have been rated, and 752 RHFAC certified. This Games-time legacy and investment will assist people with disabilities for generations to come.

And then there is the legacy of 2010 Legacies Now itself. Fuelled by the experience and knowledge gained from working with organizations and communities, 2010 Legacies Now reinvented itself as LIFT Philanthropy Partners ― the first national non-profit organization that uses a venture philanthropy approach to help build the capacity and capabilities of social purpose organizations (SPO) Canada-wide. SPOs are charities, non-profits and social enterprises that operate with the primary aim of achieving measurable social impact.

The model has been a success. We work with SPOs like Jump Math, which encourages an understanding and a love of math in students and educators; Women Building Futures, which helps women looking to enter the trades; Neil Squire Society, which uses technology, knowledge and passion to empower Canadians with disabilities; and Indspire, a national Indigenous registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people.

Bruce Dewar, in 2011, announces the establishment of LIFT Philanthropy Partners.

David Martin /

PNG files

We help SPOs be more sustainable and effective at delivering greater social impact in the areas of health, education and skills development leading to employment. Now, more than ever, Canadians need the tools and opportunities to thrive, not just survive. Our work is made possible with the generous support of our partner network and the individuals, corporations, governments and foundations that provide philanthropic investments to LIFT.

Critics of hosting the Games challenged the idea of legacy and impact. From the earliest days of the bid to today, all the partners took that challenge to heart. I stand behind the footprint we have left behind: Stronger literacy levels; greater participation rates in healthy activities by youth; better, increased barrier free access to facilities for people with disabilities — and more.

There are also intangible legacies ― an unwavering sense of national pride, new capabilities and the belief that anything is possible if we work together as a team. We grew as a province and a nation.

The Olympic motto states: “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Thanks to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, we are very much the latter.

Bruce Dewar is president and CEO of LIFT and former CEO of 2010 Legacies Now.


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