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Making the most of the Winter Games

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | JAN 11 2010

A torch stands outside the Olympic skating oval at the University of Calgary, a lasting reminder of Calgary’s 1988 Winter Games and the legacy they left behind.

The legacy of the Olympics is also on the mind of Vancouver-area institutions for the upcoming 2010 Winter Games. No university got the chance this time to have the skating oval built on campus, but there are other legacies that will be created, says Michelle Aucoin, director of the University of British Columbia’s 2010 Olympic and Paralympic secretariat. “What happened in Calgary was more than a bunch of buildings.”

Nonetheless, UBC is benefiting from Olympic infrastructure. The Vancouver Olympic Committee, or VANOC, contributed $37 million towards the complete overhaul of the university’s Thunderbird Arena, which will host the ice hockey and sledge hockey tournaments. UBC Robson Square, the university’s downtown campus, is also receiving major upgrades by the B.C. government to house the international media centre during the Games.

Another physical legacy, adds Ms. Aucoin, are seven new artworks installed at the Thunderbird Arena as part of a VANOC program to showcase aboriginal art at Olympic venues.

But the legacy goes well beyond the physical, she adds. UBC faculty are conducting a number of sports-related research projects, as well as a major project to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of hosting the event. Other Canadian universities are also participating in Olympics-related research through a special program called Own the Podium, designed to boost the medal chances of Canadian athletes.

As well, UBC is hosting a speakers’ series, debates and other public events. The Games, says Ms. Aucoin, “have created this incredible environment for dialogue.”

Students will have the chance to experience the event through volunteering or participating in VANOC-sponsored work placements. No classes are scheduled at area colleges and universities during the Games, which run Feb. 12-28.

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