The 2019 Canada Winter Games will change Red Deer, says John Furlong.
And he would know. As the leader of the team that bid on, organized and staged the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics he saw how it transformed the community, leaving a legacy that still remains.
Furlong and Ron MacLean, Hockey Night in Canada host and former Red Deerian spoke about what hosting major events means to communities at a Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.
In an inspirational speech, Furlong called on Red Deerians to get involved in the upcoming Games and be part of something special.
After successfully hosting the Games, Red Deer will come out the other side a stronger community based on his Vancouver experiences.
“The whole community changed. The community, the business community and the everyday community became the difference makers,” he said.
“When you do these projects well, when you come together, when it’s all in, everybody involved, and you get that result you walk away feeling bigger, stronger and taller than you’ve ever felt before — and that’s what this project can do.”
Furlong urged Red Deer to believe in the Games.
“Believe in this. This is huge. In the history of this city you have never had to mobilize on this scale before.
“This is the biggest undertaking you have ever taken on.”
Furlong also drew on his Olympic experience to warn that things will go wrong. It’s all about how you respond that makes the difference.
“You simply have to get back up, get back out and fix what’s wrong and keep on going and demonstrate that you are made of the right stuff and they trusted the right group all along.”
Once the Games are over, the effort made will leave a lasting impact, he predicts.
“The single greatest legacies you will be left with are these: you will feel this enormous capacity to do things and you will have incredible confidence to back that up.
“And the future will seem easier, not harder.
“The community that went into this will not be the community that comes out of it. You will be stronger, faster, better, more united.”
MacLean visited with the Games team and saw some of the venues and he came away impressed.
“The energy at the (Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre) was incredible. The energy at Central (Games headquarters downtown) was incredible today.
“So you feel it.”
Events like the Olympics and the Games bring communities together like no other, he said.
“There’s no greater example of it, time immemorial than the Olympics. Now Red Deer gets to do it on a national level, which is great.”
Scott Robinson, CEO of the Games Host Society, said the organizing team is motivated and ticket sales are going well.
There are many opportunities for people to get involved and Games organizers will be rolling out an initiative to encourage small businesses to get involved soon.
Next week, mission staff from across the country will be visiting Red Deer to visit the facilities and see how preparations are going.