by Jacques Rogge
Most people are aware that hosting an Olympic Games requires close to a decade of work before the first athlete ever sets foot on the field of play. What is not so well known is that the work continues long after the closing ceremony for many of those responsible for staging the Games.
Such work helps to ensure that the Olympic legacy lasts well beyond the staging of successful Games. One of the most important post-Games operations is the debrief that the International Olympic Committee organises to give future host cities a comprehensive look at what worked well and what could be improved from the previous Olympic Games. The objective is to provide organisers of upcoming Olympic Games with information that they can then adapt and apply to their own edition, if they feel that it will improve their operations or enhance their Games vision.
This year it is Vancouver’s turn to pass the torch. Representatives of London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 and the applicant cities for the 2018 Games are all taking part in the Vancouver 2010 debrief this week in Sochi, Russia. It is an opportunity for them to build on the Vancouver Organising Committee’s considerable experience, enabling them to innovate in their own Games and increase the legacy that they will leave to their communities and the Olympic Movement once the Games are over.
Vancouver hosted excellent Games in February, leaving a great legacy for the city, region, country and Olympic Movement. From the feeling of unity Canadians felt from coast to coast — undoubtedly aided by a Winter Olympic record 14 gold medals — to job creation for disadvantaged citizens and social housing, the Games not only carved out a place in Canada’s history but also its future. Sharing their observations in a spirit of friendship will help to further perpetuate all the good that came out of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The lessons Vancouver learnt in similar debriefings by its predecessors, namely Beijing, Turin and Athens, played an important role in the success of the 2010 Games. Such transfers of knowledge are of paramount importance. The exchange gives future host cities a solid foundation on which to create their own Olympic experiences, which can be hugely reassuring during the initial stages of Games preparation. London, Sochi and Rio already know that they do not have to reinvent the wheel each step of the way, and the dialogue with Vancouver and the IOC will go a long way to engage and inspire them.
The process can have real and far-reaching benefits. At a time when the world is struggling to come out of recession, staging the biggest sporting event in the world can sometimes feel daunting. This is natural. To be supplied with first-hand knowledge from those who have been there before them, however, allows future host cities to make their own projects as economically efficient and effective as possible and to gain a great deal of perspective.
The debrief is also the perfect opportunity for organisers to evaluate their progress and recalibrate where necessary, enabling them to carve out their own unique product and experience for athletes and spectators alike. This experience is a leading factor in the success of the Games, which is why the debrief focuses on ensuring that when the world’s best athletes come to compete, they are able to do so in the best conditions possible. We at the IOC firmly believe that this continual sharing of experience allows us to maintain the exceptionally high standards that the world’s top athletes and Olympic fans have come to expect from the Games.
This will be the sixth edition of the Games debrief, which is part of a much wider transfer-of-knowledge programme set up by the IOC to assist future Olympic organisers, who are usually taking on the Games for the first time. While the debrief is organised and run by the IOC, it is by no means a one-way channel of communication. On the contrary, the workshops and seminars are designed in such a way that active and constructive dialogue between Vancouver and the future host cities takes place. In this way, the needs of the different Games stakeholders are all covered.
The Olympic Games can leave fantastic legacies, and Vancouver 2010 was no exception. By taking on board the work of their predecessors, London, Sochi and Rio can expect to achieve the same high standards and deliver unforgettable Games that will produce lasting legacies that will benefit their communities for many years.