Evaluating the successes and failures of Capilano’s Olympic involvement
Since Vancouver was awarded the Olympics in 2003, Capilano University has been actively involved in trying to determine how we could be involved. In 2004, the provincial government established LinkBC, the provincial Centre for Tourism Leadership and Innovation, and located it at Capilano’s Squamish Campus. According to a report published on the Capilano website, the centre works to expand tourism’s role as an economic supplier in the province. This program was designed mainly to create learning opportunities for BC Post Secondary institutions during the games.

“Learning opportunities” is a phrase that is frequently thrown around in relation to the Olympics, and often considered the veto as to why VANOC has been allowed to control so many B.C. University campuses during the Olympic Games period. For the Squamish campus, these “opportunities” were tangible – a First Nations Tourism Management Diploma program was created, an Olympic Lecture series was established, and a Leadership-Adventure program was created. These programs and lectures all focused on how communities such as Squamish could benefit from the games, rather than being hurt by them, and attempted to provide current students and recent graduates with employment opportunities in their own community. In North Vancouver, the Business department developed a collaborative case study program, giving business students the opportunity to be judged by a panel of industry experts on project ideas related to the Olympics. The Tourism department began working with students in the Aboriginal Youth Ambassador program, helping them to see what role they could play in the Olympics. Surprisingly enough, all these initiatives occurred in 2005 – a year before Capilano even announced it would extend its reading break for the Games.

Throughout 2006 and 2007, Capilano developed more Olympic learning initiatives, programs that mainly stemmed from the Business department. A course taught by Judith Watson, a Business professor, was designed to provide students with opportunities to look at the Business side of this massive event up close and personal.

Capilano hosted a seminar in 2007 about young athletes, was approved by VANOC to hold nine concerts at the Performing Arts Theatre during the Cultural Olympiad, and put on workshops for Business and Tourism students about how they could take advantage of the Olympics. In 2008, Capilano signed an agreement that would provide students in the Tourism program with an opportunity to participate in a paid practicum during the Olympics, as well as an agreement that is an initiative of Olympic Broadcasting Services Vancouver (OBSV), an agreement that allowed Cap students to apply for internships  with opportunities to work during the Olympics. Several Capilano students were also offered the opportunity to work at the Beijing Summer Olympics, an agreement that was worked out by Catherine Vertesi, the Vice President of Education, Management, and International Programs. Shockingly enough, despite all these Olympic based events and programs put on by Capilano, their biggest involvement did not occur until late 2008 – when they signed a community contributor agreement with VANOC.

According to the Capilano website, the agreement with VANOC was an initiative designed to provide opportunities for students and employees when Vancouver welcomes the world in 2010. Essentially, the official agreement states that Capilano is a part of the community contributor program, meaning that they provide a value in-kind donation to VANOC, and are rewarded with the ability to use their involvement for promotional and recruitment purposes. Capilano will be mentioned as a community contributor of the Olympics, and can broadcast this in order to attract more local and international attention. Capilano is required to provide VANOC with a $250,000 “value in-kind” donation in order to be considered a community contributor. According to Shelley Kean, Capilano’s manager of public affairs, this donation will be carried out through the parking that Capilano is allocating to VANOC during the games.

“We are providing a place for them to use as a departure hub,” Kean said. “And there are lots of benefits – in total, VANOC will be paying out over $300,000 to Capilano students working for them during the Olympics.” There are over 300 Capilano student employees working for VANOC during the games, which is unquestionably a good money making opportunity for those students. Yet, the burning question remains: has Capilano’s agreement with VANOC fulfilled the mantra of our Olympic involvement – Educate, participate, and celebrate?

First of all, Educate: Undoubtedly, there have been quite a few opportunities for students to get educated about the Olympics, but these opportunities were chiefly based in the Tourism programs and the Business programs. However, the English department has had small offerings as well. Reg Johanson has focused readings in his English 100 courses over the past two years that have dealt with homelessness, the Olympics, and First Nations issues, while Roger Farr is offering a course on societal surveillance. There have not been too many other options for students in other programs, at least not education from a specific course or workshop. However, Capilano has put on many educational Olympic events that have been open to the whole school, such as seminars, Olympic days, and job fairs. Quite a few of these events occurred before 2008, which is a challenge with a University that has so many two year degree programs – many students who are here now were not exposed to these early Olympic opportunities. So, with education as a goal behind Cap’s involvement with the games, was success reached? Perhaps for the Business students, the Tourism students, and those at the Squamish campus, it was. As a whole student body, it is much more difficult to evaluate.

Secondly, Participate. The Olympics have certainly granted Cap with opportunities to become more active in community activities, such as a Walk to Whistler event that was held in 2007 for employees, and the various initiatives that were developed for the Olympics, such as the LinkBC program. Again, for Business and Tourism students, there have been plenty of opportunities to sign up for internships, paid positions, and volunteer positions, positions that they might otherwise never have been able to receive. VANOC has also recruited many student volunteers, enabling students to get up close and personal to many of the events going on during the Olympics. On the whole, Capilano did offer quite a few possibilities for student participation – although they were perhaps not as well publicized and widespread as they could have been.

Finally, Celebrate. Certainly, there are many people in Vancouver, and at Capilano, who are celebrating the arrival of the Olympics, and for good reason. Capilano is part of the incredible Cultural Olympiad, a series of multicultural concerts and events that will be held throughout February and March. This provides students and staff alike with the opportunity to see incredibly talented performers from around the world, performing right in our hometown. One of the concerts taking place at the Performing Arts Theatre in March, the Mississippi Shieks Tribute, was put on the Georgia Strait’s top 10 list of performances to see during the Cultural Olympiad. Certainly, concerts provide an exciting way for people to get involved in the excitement of the Games without having to pay $1000 a ticket.

Ultimately, the question remains: Is Cap’s involvement with the Olympics something to celebrate? Given the huge social inequities and disparities that occur because of the Olympics, is this really an event we should be proud to put our name beside? Well, if one took part in the mantra, it certainly would be. If you enrolled in an Olympics course, participated in finding a paid Olympics internship, and celebrated the arrival of the torch and the huge multicultural festivities to follow, then naturally, Capilano would have succeeded. But for all the other students, it’s harder to easily quantify this success as tangible. It certainly wouldn’t bring home the gold.

// Krissi Bucholtz,

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: