2010 Olympics to be subject to report cards 

University professor to study effect of mega-events on health and quality of life

A UBC professor is creating a report card to assess how well the organizers of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games keep their commitments to communities.

"The ultimate objective for the Games period is that it works to keep (the Vancouver Organizing Committee) in line with its community commitments," said Rob VanWynsberghe, as assistant professor at UBC’s Institute of Health Promotion Research.

The first report card will likely come out in 2007 and more will follow regularly until about 2011.

VanWynsberghe just received a federal grant for $109,620 to get the project off the ground.

VANOC spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade welcomed the idea.

"We fully support the concept of staging a healthy Olympic Games and have many programs in place and under development that will address the various issues that will be considered for the report card," she said. "Staging a healthy games will be a result of the entire community and all partners making a commitment to that goal."

VanWynsberghe hopes the project, which organizers of the Beijing 2008 and Torino 2006 Olympics, are also interested in, continues long past Vancouver’s Games.

"In previous Games the legacies are always the venues and we are saying let’s have community and community processes be at least part of the legacy too," he said.

The first step in the project will be to host a community forum, then form working groups, which will then draw up the report card criteria. The working groups will have about 10 members from various stakeholder groups including youth, seniors, business people, ideally people from VANOC, government and academics.

"They are going to be trained on, and in the use of, development of indicators," said VanWynsberghe. "Then we are going to have them come up with indicators for their area and combine them into a very simple report card that is of interest to people and that is friendly. The whole intent is to have something that is friendly."

The research will be done in an objective, neutral and unbiased way. It will start by looking at what the community said it wanted during the on-going consultation that has been part of the process to host the Games. Then researchers will turn their attention to how VANOC is doing.

"As researchers we are going to give (VANOC) objective feedback on how it is going and we hope that will engage VANOC," said VanWynsberghe.

"I hope they actually say, ‘we want this to be our evaluation, we want you to help us ensure that we do this properly.’ That will mean that the community is actually involved."

He believes B.C. will host more and more mega-events and a system to monitor their impact on the health and quality of life in communities is a must.

"If you think about what is happening we are actually starting to base part of our economy on these mega-events so why wouldn’t you have indicators for how these things impact your regions?" said VanWynsberghe.

He hopes that this project will form the basis of a community based indicators project.

"There are examples of this around the world," said VanWynsberghe. "We are actually perfectly positioned to do this because there is an urban observatory project that is starting off and it is supported by the United Nations, then there is also a brand new green building being built in downtown Vancouver that is going to have an indicators room.

"We say this can become a legacy."

One type of issue that could be measured in this forum long-term would be air quality. Visits by children to hospitals for asthma would be an indicator for air quality, explained VanWynsberghe.

More information will become available on the project, which he hopes will also include Whistler.

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