Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why Ottawa should bid for the 2017 World University Games

So Canada's 150th birthday is coming and Ottawa is positioning itself to be Canada's gathering place for 2017.  To help with that effort we have already placed a bid for the 2017 World Police and Fire Games and have been shortlisted with five other cities including Toronto and Montreal.

For those who don't know, the World Police and Fire Games is the second largest athletics event in the world with 10,000 athletes; that is slightly less than the Summer Olympic Games and more than the Commonwealth Games.  You can see that landing this kind of event would be a huge stimulus for our local economy.  What's more is that organizers have told the federation they wouldn't need to build any new facilities which would save a lot of money.

So what about the rest of the year?  That brings me to the World University Games, also known as Universiade; essentially an Olympics for university students.  This past September the bidding process for the 2017 Summer and Winter World University Games was opened.  Potential host cities have until May 2, 2001 to submit a Letter of Intention.  Although not as large as the World Police and Fire Games, this event would bring 9,000 student athletes and coaches, over 1,000 judges, as well as supportive family members into our city.

So the question is, should we bid for the Winter or Summer games?

The advantage of bidding for the Winter games is that it would provide a great kick off to the year, taking place in late January to early February.  This would mean that it would overlap with Winterlude in the National Capital Region.  Could you imagine 6,700 university students celebrating Winterlude and skating on the canal?  That would probably be one of the most vibrant Winterludes in a long time.  The disadvantage is that all outdoor events would have to be held in Gatineau since Ottawa doesn't have great cross country and alpine skiing facilities.  That would mean that Gatineau would probably host more events than Ottawa, so really we'd be a supporting host.

The advantage of bidding for the Summer Games is that, similar to the World Police and Fire Games, we already have the facilties to host the events and wouldn't have to beg the Federal and Ontario governments for billions of dollars.  The University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, La Cité Collégiale and l'Université de Québec à l'Outaouais have great competition and training facilities.  When you include Scotiabank Place, Frank Clair Stadium, the Ottawa Civic Centre, le Centre sportif de Gatineau, a new Robert Guertin Arena, a new Capital Exhibition Centre, a new Ottawa Convention Centre, the Complexe sportif Mont-Bleu, as well as great training facilities in Kanata, Orléans and Ottawa South, we wouldn't have to build anything new.

Another advantage, and disadvantage, is timing.  These games would be held in early July, possible as early as July 1 as they were in 2009, which would coincide with Canada Day celebrations for our sesquicentennial birthday.  Opening ceremonies on Canada Day might be a great party.  The whole city would be buzzing.  On the other hand if we landed both the Summer World University Games and the World Police and Fire Games in 2017 they would only be a month apart.  Sounds a bit congested.

In my humble opinion, although the World University Games are smaller than the World Police and Fire Games they have the potential of doing more for our city.  Not only will they bring tourism and money into our economy, but they will showcase our universities and colleges to the world.  What international students and exchange programs will be able to bring to our city from this type of event?  How many of these students would decide to do an internship or graduate studies in Ottawa?

These students aren't just athletes; they are soon-to-be graduates who will be looking for jobs in one to four years.  They are young people who will be in the work force or business in one to four years and will be looking for places to invest.  Ottawa could eventually become a new home for these new professionals interested in the stability of working for the Federal Government or the growth potential of our tech sector.  What would happen if we could make an impression on 6,700 university students from over 100 countries?

Whether we landed the Summer or Winter World University Games in 2017, could we really lose?  One would coincide with Winterlude and the other would coincide with Canada Day.  Either way, one of these staple celebrations would become a lot more international that year, and either way those students would get a party that they would never get.  What a way to make an impression on the international leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs of tomorrow!

The Olympic and Pan Am Games would be well over Ottawa's head, but the World University Games are well within our capacity.  The only other Canadian city to host these games was Edmonton in 1983.  That fact combined with Canada's 150th birthday would be great selling points for an Ottawa bid.

There's no harm in submitting bids for multiple international events in a given year, especially an important year like 2017.  Nothing stopped Toronto from bidding for the Pan Am Games and the World Police and Fire Games in 2015.  After all, it's just a bid.

Kevin Bourne


Universiade Bidding Process

List of Universiade Summer Sports

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