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The 2015 Canada Winter Games: Sustainable Sport Event Snapshot

03/03/2015 12:19 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
Todd Korol via Getty Images
CALGARY, AB - MARCH 1: British Columbia skip Jim Cotter delivers his shot in his game against Northern Ontario during the Tim Horton's Brier at the Scotiabank Saddledome on March 1, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Todd Korol/Getty Images)

"Our 2015 Games will boost key initiatives that create durable legacies for healthier and more resilient communities."

- Prince George 2015 Canada Winter Games Sustainability Vision

The 2015 Canada Winter Games by the numbers:

  • From February 13 -- March 1, 2015, Prince George and northern BC hosted the largest multi-sport event ever held in the region.
  • 2,400 athletes, 1,000 coaches and officials, 4,500 volunteers, hundreds of media and thousands of visitors attended.
  • An expected economic impact of90 million as well as the social impact from the Games will spur the next generation of up-and-coming athletes, youth and champions.
  • The Lheidli T'enneh, the First Nation on whose traditional territory the Games occurred, welcomed 800 communities from across the country.

While the 2015 Canada Winter Games will prepare a post-Games sustainability report, here's an early Sustainability Snapshot.

Leadership and Community Engagement: It Takes a Village!

Sometimes leadership happens off the side of one's desk, while at other times it emerges collaboratively, with the help of community partners to advance shared goals. Here are some ways in which the Canada Winter Games' leadership, particularly around sustainability, rose to the top:

  • Dan Adamson, a former manager in the City's Planning and Development Department, was loaned to the Games Host Society to create the Games' Sustainability Strategy. Dan worked tirelessly, rallied stakeholders and got signatures for final sustainable event plans.
  • Though he was new to the concept and came into the process later in the event planning cycle, Stu Ballantyne, CEO of the Games Host Society, quickly supported the planning process, endorsed the Sustainability Policy and many of its implications.
  • The Games Host Society adopted its Sustainability Policy in Fall 2013 with extensive input from stakeholders and the City of Prince George's original Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, called myPG.
  • The outcomes of the Policy included an overarching strategy, a sustainable purchasing program, and the hiring of a full-time Sustainability Manager, Emily Harrison. This new position was jointly funded by the Host Society, the University of Northern British Columbia with supporting financing provided by the provincial government and local corporations.
  • External committees made up of businesses, non-profits and government organizations provided valuable input and program support for environment, social inclusion, arts and culture and economic development.

Kudos to the Games' leadership for embracing the call to sustainability -- even late in the game! And kudos to the Canada Games Council, who have since initiated a process to support future Games hosts with early on-boarding of sustainability personnel and sustainability program resources.

Management -- Starts with a Sustainability Champion!

With the sustainability blueprint in hand, eleven months to the Games and no budget, the newly minted and undaunted Sustainability Manager, Emily Harrison, leveraged every internal and external contact.

The Games Host Society saw Emily regularly in meetings involving procurement, sponsorship and cleaning and waste, as well as at site visits. Harrison wooed UNBC's students into helping, together setting out to establish free transit for the duration of the Games and place 550 new waste receptacles in venues.

And that's not all! Through the 2015 Games Sustainability Strategy, four objectives inspired positive impacts:

1. Economic / Business Development through sustainable purchasing and sustainable financing

  • Capital investments have re-invigorated Prince George as a sport tourism destination. A new Olympic size hockey arena was added to the multisport and exhibition KIN II Centre which also provide fields of play for short track speed skating and sledge hockey. Two new outdoor sport facilities include the biathlon range, long-track speed-skating, snow-board, free style and half-pipe venues. And a new Canada Games Plaza public space provides a gathering place for outdoor celebrations and entertainment.
  • The Games organizers worked with the Fraser Basin Council and local and regional business communities to generate interest and identify other community economic development priorities for small and medium enterprises, tourism and hospitality, and the event sector more broadly in northern BC.
  • The Games Host Society created a procurement policy that included a preference for local and regional vendors to create local economic opportunities through directed spending. An event-based sustainable purchasing guideline was created to educate event organizers and vendors on sustainable criteria and opportunities.
  • Sponsorships that helped ease budget pressures included 550 additional recycling and waste receptacles from Multi-Materials BC (MMBC) , Bullfrog Power's provision of green natural gas for the ice rinks' Zamboni vehicles, and fair trade coffee provided by Van Houtte for the Media Centre.

2. Social Development through Active Living, Volunteerism and Arts and Culture

  • The Games protected existing volunteers already serving community requirements and sought new volunteers through recruitment drives in the local Pine Centre Mall, senior citizen facilities and UNBC. New recruits were attracted to meet-ups with free food and enthusiastic leaders.
  • First Nations culture was incorporated into the ceremonies and celebrations, as well as the medal design (by Jenny Pigeon of the Lheidli T'enneh) and handmade leather pouches sewn for the medals.
  • Local plants and seedlings were donated and featured in bouquets for winning athletes and hospitality decor.

3. Environmental Stewardship through Wood First, Energy Efficiency and Waste Reduction

  • Given the region's dependency on the forestry sector, wood-based products were favoured. The Wood Innovation Design Centre has been a feature showcase for the industry and doubled as the Games' official Media Centre.
  • Wooden rifle racks for the biathlon, as well as wooden waste receptacles, were donated to the Games.
  • Pacific Institute Climate Solutions pitched in and generously prepared an inventory on the Games' carbon footprint at no charge! Fundraising is in place to finance the Games' carbon neutrality. It is anticipated that third party-certified offset projects will be invested in northern BC.
  • The Sustainability Manager and UNBC volunteers undertook the herculean feat of raising40,000 to finance free transit for athletes, officials, fans and the public for the 18 days of the Games -- their success is simply remarkable! The free transit campaign was linked with protecting local air quality, often a challenge in winter months with local thermal inversions. Volunteers ran bottle drives, and persuaded the Northern Health Authority, local business and the general public to donate funds. The volunteers requested that the surplus of1500 go to the sustainability volunteer program to support Winnipeg's efforts for the next Canada Summer Games in 2017.
  • The Games set a target of 65 per cent waste diversion. While pilots for composting solutions were sought, recycling and donating unused food for local community organizations received the most focus. In addition, 250 IKEA bunk beds and sleeping bags purchased for athletes will be donated to local community groups following the Games.
  • Post-Games the MMBC plastic bins will be given to Emterra, a recycling service in Prince George and the wooden bins will remain in key venues for recycling services.

4. Sustainable Event Standards to guide planning and delivery of the sustainable games strategy.

  • The Prince George Games were the first Canada Games to use the Canadian Standards Association Z2010 for Sustainable Event Planning and Management. In addition, the post-Games sustainability report will incorporate Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) metrics from the Event Organizers Sector Supplement to account for its sustainable event performance.

The 2015 Canada Winter Games wrapped up on Sunday March 1st and with this comes the task of tidying up, closing down and transferring assets and programs to legacy owners -- not to mention the transfer of knowledge sessions for Winnipeg's 2017 Canada Summer Games. When the organizers catch their breath, we'll look forward to the post-Games sustainability report.

Up next -- the sustainable event experiences and innovations presented by the upcoming 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2015 Pan Para Pan American Games hosts. Stay tuned!