2015 Games Could Transform P.G. Says Professor
Prince George, B.C. – What will the Canada Winter Games mean to Prince George? That all depends on how the local people experience them says Dr. Harry Hiller, Director of the Cities and the Olympics Project & Faculty Professor of Urban Sociology at the University of Calgary .
Dr. Hiller has written a book about the impact of major sporting events on host cities and has made presentations around the world on that subject. Later today, he will make such a presentation at UNBC.
“What we have discovered at other cities that have hosted mega sporting events is that there is the strong possibility, if everything comes together appropriately, that the experience of hosting the Games will transform the way people experience their own city.”
He says if the right kind of preparations have taken place, such as providing other events like free concerts and an active street life for those who don’t have tickets to the sporting events, will transform the city by creating a festival atmosphere. “A festival atmosphere creates very fond memories and makes people feel the Games are worth it” says Dr. Hiller, and that leaves people with a good feeling about living in their city.
The transformation may not be permanent, “It provides people with a feeling that their city is a great place in which to live” says Dr. Hiller, “Because the city is now a place not just to live, but to enjoy, that’s the kind of transformation that these mega events can have if the opportunities are there” and from what he has learned about the plans for the 2015 Games, all the right elements are in place to create that kind of outcome in Prince George.
But from two weeks of events and celebrations, to the norm of a typical March in Prince George, will people be left with a post Games hangover? “Well normally people talk about a post games hangover when you talk about the economic costs, in this case, we’re not expecting that kind of thing to happen, but what it can do, is that once things go back to normal and it’s not as busy, it emphasizes how important the Games were because they did create the transformation.”
There is a possibility of a permanent transformation, as was the case in Halifax, where after the Winter Games in that city, residents called upon their municipal government to carry on with the downtown public ice rink that had been set up for the duration of those Games “People have come to realize there are other ways of doing things in the City” but he says it doesn’t always work out that way. “Let me give you an illustration from the 1988 Olympics in Calgary where people said ‘I think this is so great we should have a winter festival every year at this same time’. And so the idea was this would be a legacy of the Olympics, and you know what, it never happened to the same extent. People didn’t get behind it in the same way.”
Part of the problem in trying to recreate the special time of a mega sporting event says Dr. Hiller is that people mobilized, there were finances put in place, and thousands of visitors were in the community , but that isn’t likely to happen again. “You have to remember there are going to be thousands of people streaming into this City who don’t normally come in February. So in that sense it’s unrepeatable and that’s why you have to take advantage of it while you can.”
And don’t forget , there will be plenty of media attention in the community, looking to share stories of the community, its people and culture “The presence of media in itself changes everything, they’re everywhere shooting everything that’s going on, so it’s hard to repeat that because you don’t have that influx of visitors and athletes as well as media and that is part of the magic too.”
Dr. Hiller will be speaking at UNBC this afternoon at 3:30 in Lecture Theatre 7-238