The free pavilion concept during the Olympic Games should live on beyond 2010
During the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, the line-ups to enter the BC-Canada pavilion were blocks long. Europeans who were keenly interested in learning more about Canada (for FREE), stood outside in the cold for their chance to enter a beautiful replica cabin built out of BC wood. Tens of thousands of people went through the BC-Canada pavilion and it was a big hit.
During the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the BC-Canada pavilion was back at it again. Were it not for the poor location and the necessity to charge an admission fee, I'm confident the pavilion would have been an even bigger hit in Beijing.
In 2010, the free Olympic pavilion concept was taken to a whole new level. As you can see from our 2010 Where 2 Be for Free Guide (see Paralympics edition), there were well over 40 free and low cost venues open to the public leading up to and during the Games. Hundreds of thousands of people streamed to the venues over the course of the 17-day Games. Whether it was the Ontario pavilion or Atlantic Canada House, each exhibitor had an amazing opportunity to get their message out to potential investors and tourists alike.
It's hard to imagine this free pavilion concept (which successfully complemented the official sporting activities and the Cultural Olympiad) going away anytime soon. Therefore, we need to ask the following question: will the Government of Canada and our Provinces show up in full force during London's 2010 Summer Olympic Games to ensure we keep getting our message out? We certainly hope so!
Canada clearly has an edge on the foreign competition having pioneered the concept of these types of free pavilions going back to the 2006 Turin Games. Therefore, we think it would be a great opportunity to help brand Canada as a great destination to do business, invest, do your banking, go to university, conduct research, live, raise a family...and the list goes on.
The key to success will be for Canada and the Provinces to take action now. A central coordinating body should be immediately established to ensure the pavilions are all close to the main Olympic action. The pavilions for Canada and its regions should be clustered together to encourage foot traffic. They should showcase the best of our country, our provinces and our cities, while being welcoming to both young and old visitors. And it goes without saying they should have lots of compelling interactive "hands on" content.
This will take some finessing, as securing open parking lots and empty building in and around downtown London is easier said than done. But with over 2 years to go, it is definitely possible!!
If Canada (including the provinces and perhaps even some of our larger cities) can work together, we could continue to make a huge impression on the rest of the world in 2012. It may cost a few bucks to do so, but in the larger context of government spending, this would be a worthwhile investment to keep Canada on the world stage beyond the 2010 Games. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.