60,000 people attended last evening's 2010 Paralympic opening ceremony
As I headed into BC Place yesterday afternoon to take in the Paralympic opening ceremonies with my family, I couldn't help but note how this will be the last community celebration in this venue with a fixed roof. Not only has work begun already begun on disassembling the stages from last night's ceremony, they are simultaneously starting one of the biggest construction projects Vancouver's history.
With the $450 million retractable roof project now underway, in a little over a year from now the newly refurbished BC Place will play home to the BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps. I've already purchased Lions seasons tickets for the 2010 season in anticipation of getting even better seats in the open air stadium next year.
As for the Paralympic ceremonies last night, I can only describe them as electric. The only other similar experience I can compare it to was attending the closing ceremonies at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games. The place was packed with over 60,000 fans who were draped out in the latest designer ponchos. Considering the Paralympic movement is still considered relatively new compared to the Olympics, it was great to see such enthusiasm in our community for the Games.
Having previously worked for Mayor Sam Sullivan, a man who became a quadriplegic at 19-years old, I felt like I had a special connection to the celebration last night. We've been friends for years, but it was only when I worked with Sullivan (moreover when I traveled with him) that I fully comprehended the struggles he faces on a daily basis. I can only imagine how challenging the road to Vancouver must have been for the 1000+ athletes who made their way into the stadium last night.
Once again John Furlong got a huge cheer from the assembled fans when he was introduced to the crowd. As for whether Vancouverites will ever get the chance to refer to him as His Worship John Furlong...well, I'm told the definitive answer on that won't come until a few months after the Games (despite public statements to the contrary). Insiders say proper protocol requires someone in Furlong's position has to hold off making any references to political ambitions until well after his "official" duties are over. We're also told if he does run, it likely won't be with the NPA.
It goes without saying that Furlong's personal approval ratings and name recognition are through the roof. With a record of successfully showcasing Vancouver to the world, he'll remain a sought after commodity for months to come. That's why so many folks over at the Vision camp are watching his every move very closely.
Kudos to VANOC for putting on a great show last evening and helping to kick off what should be one of the best Paralympic Games ever!!
- post by Daniel