‘Opportunity lost’ in Richmond’s failure to bid for B.C. Summer Games

Opportunity lost’ in Richmond’s failure to bid for B.C. Summer Games


Updated: September 12, 2012 2:07 PM

Richmond City Hall is increasingly focusing on high-performance sport—at the expense of offering opportunities to young people, says a longtime city councillor.

“This cradle to podium concept is wonderful, but if all you have is the podium to show off at the oval, what happens to everybody in the middle?” said Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt yesterday. “What’s happening now is we’re losing the community aspect.”

Halsey-Brandt was one of four councillors who backed a proposed Richmond bid for the B.C. Summer Games, which was quashed in a 5-4 council vote at a special meeting Sept. 4.

The seven-term councillor said she supported the Richmond Olympic Oval because of a promise to allow young people to be inspired while training alongside elite athletes. The B.C. Summer Games offered teenagers across the province a stage of their own—just as the Olympics and major tournaments have afforded elite athletes.

“We need to support the ability of our elite athletes to have a place to practice, to train, to perform and to show off, but also, we need to do that for our young people who aren’t there, but who can be inspired by it and be proud of what they do.”

The Richmond Sports Council also backed the bid, along with Couns. Ken Johnston, Linda McPhail and Bill McNulty.

“This is an opportunity lost,” said McNulty. “To me this was a perfect fit for the community.”

When Richmond hosted the B.C. Seniors Games in 2009, organizers had to turn away volunteers because of the interest, said McNulty, who added the city is easily capable of hosting a “grassroots games.”

“It’s a win-win situation. It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of sport development and opportunity—an opportunity for our own kids and own people to put on a show.”

McNulty said with a growing emphasis on high performance sport, “we’ve forgotten where we’ve come from.”

“Every athlete who has made it to the national or international (level) has come through the community,” he said. “One thing they have had is encouragement and motivation from their community.”

The four councillors won the first vote at a council committee meeting—in a 4-4 tie—but lost at a regular council meeting one hour later, after Coun. Harold Steves cast the deciding vote against the Games via teleconference.

Also opposed to the bid: Mayor Malcolm Brodie and councillors Chak Au, Derek Dang and Linda Barnes.

“I think we would be putting all our eggs in one basket,” said Barnes. “The money to me wasn’t the deciding factor. It was the staffing resources and the focus the city would have to put in for one event.”

Although Richmond would have done a “remarkable job” as host, the focus on a single event would be “at the detriment of our own local sporting organizations and other hosting opportunities,” added Barnes.

City staff recommended council avoid making a bid, suggesting Richmond focus its efforts in attracting more high-profile events that draw large numbers of out-of-town visitors who stay in hotels and spend cash in Richmond.

“While the B.C. Summer Games do involve a substantial number of athletes and officials, given the business model of using schools for food and accommodation there is less economic benefit associated with them…” said Vern Jacques, senior manager of recreation, in a report to council.

Hosting the games would have required a $367,000 commitment from the city, according to Jacques’ report.

Surrey was last to host the Games, staged every two years. From July 19 to 22, 2,301 young athletes competed in dozens of events in Surrey. The 2012 event also attracted 474 coaches, 304 officials and 2,986 volunteers, according to the B.C. Games Society.

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COMMENT:

” The  Politics ?!? “

I attended the committee meeting on this issue. At the meeting was another Richmond resident, a really good guy…he previously won the Volunteer of the Year award .  He and some other Richmond citizens have a lot of experience organizing these sorts of games.

The BC summer games are a mid – range event….re: the size and participation, if we have the Olympic at one end and a  single sport tournament at the other.

As I chatted to him, he said the fix was in at the City to kill the idea. One of the senior managers made submission at the meeting…and it seemed neutral at the start. Economic impacts were discussed etc. I left the meeting before the vote…but as the article notes, it was voted down at Committee, hence it stops there and goes no further AS note before, this was “General Purpose Committee” so all Council members attend and this is a dry run for a Council vote at a Council Meeting. In other words, they don’t want any surprises for certain issues, hence this Committee format.

 

To be honest, I am rather ambiguous on these events, or the bigger issue….but the dialogue of the Councillors is intriguing. I recall that we had the Seniors Games just prior to the Olympics…and the request was submitted and approved via good lobbying…but it too would take resources from a World Class event.  Yet Council agreed to it.

 

Yes, one cannot agree to host every event proposed, but what intrigues me is when some members of Council breaks ranks and perhaps indicate what is going on behind the scenes. The City is admitting it wishes to go ” high end “….and to determine the use of public facilities based on an economic ripple effect. While that may sound more practical in the Big Picture, is that simply a foot in the door that will become a policy to exclude those event deemed lesser calibre ? Perhaps Council should list which events it wishes to pursue in the future so we have an idea. If all cities started adopting the same policy , then various events will simply die off from lack of support.

I suggest a well – rounded approach, as not everyone is interested in elite sports etc. , as I personally find the whole thing rather subjective. 

Some of my best sports memories were watching young amateurs compete.

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