The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) inaugurated the Canadian Olympic House at 500 West Rene-Levesque Boulevard in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. La Presse had access to a guided visit of the place little before its opening. Here are some salient facts about it.
The Best Montreal Presence
The idea for the House began to germinate in the mind of COC President Marcel Aubut in 2009. "At the time, he noticed that there was a gap at the level of the Committee's presence in Montreal," indicates Carl Vallee. At that moment, only two employees who were working out of offices in the basement of the Olympic Stadium assured a permanent presence of the COC in the metropolis. "We would love to say that the medals will be won from now on in Montreal," adds Mr. Vallee.
An Investment of Around $15 Million
Overall, the creation of the House represents an investment nearing $15 million. The company that used to own the premises, Cromwell Management, agreed to pay the $3 million needed for the organization of the place. Quebec and Ottawa have respectively injected $3.5 and $3 million, while the City of Montreal has contributed a sum of $2 million to the project. Several companies have also offered their financial support.
Making the Olympics Accessible
One of the main objectives of the House is to make Olympic sports accessible to the entire population, especially youth. "We want to expose them to sports they would not have access to otherwise," explains Carl Vallee. According to him, by making the youngest members of society interested in a greater variety of disciplines, they could decide to devote themselves more seriously to them, and who knows, become the next Olympic stars in their new area of preference.
One of the main attractions of the House is the Olympic Experience, which is a series of virtual reality stations that will allow visitors to walk in the shoes of an Olympic athlete. On top of benefiting from the advice of real Olympians who have participated in developing the stations, users will be able to become familiar with all their statistics at the end of their experience. Three disciplines - track, fencing and acrobatic skiing - were offered on the day of the inauguration. Seven other stations will be added by the end of 2016.
The House also includes a multi-use room, christened "Salle Lausanne," which is 2,100 square feet. It can accommodate all kinds of events such as press conferences, meetings or educational presentations. The room has 70 state of the art screens in order to present different projections and to respond to user needs.
A Flame for Our Athletes
A second monument, designed with the Olympic Flame in mind, will be built in front of the main entry of the House in order to pay homage to all the Canadian medal-winners in the history of the Olympic Games. So, the names of the 1,300 athletes will be engraved there. Additional names will be added as needed as other Canadians depart from the Games with medals around their necks. In choosing to represent the flame, the COC also wanted to honor the three Canadian cities that have hosted the Olympics, Montreal (1976), Calgary (1988) and Vancouver (2010).
The Olympic House will be visible in the Montreal sky when the five rings emblematic of the Olympics preside over the tower where it's located. And thanks to a complex lighting system, an entire facade of the building will be permanently illuminated. The colors of the lighting can be modified according to need, such as highlighting a special event. An effigy monument of the rings will also be erected on the square of the locale.
Great Inauguration Celebration
On July 9, the COC organized a celebration in front of the premises of the House in order to celebrate its inauguration with pomp and circumstance. More than 200 Canadian Olympians confirmed their attendance at the event. The festivities included a musical component under the direction of Gregory Charles. Several artists appeared on the scene starting from 10 pm, among them Sylvain Cossette, Roch Voisine, Alex Nevsky and Brigitte Boisjoli.
How important do you think it is to connect people to Olympic athletes? Have the Olympics come to your city? How has you community been affected by the Olympic games? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French on La Presse, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.