Photo by Chung Chow
The crown jewel of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is teeming with activity.
As a group of figure skaters concentrate on landing their jumps, on the adjacent ice rink a hockey game is nicely underway.
Nearby, several teens practise their hoop skills as a few seniors stroll by on their way to engage in a game of table tennis.
And upstairs, people of all ages are sweating through another challenging workout.
It’s all part of a typical day at the Richmond Olympic Oval, which following the Games, has transformed into a 32,000-square-metre, multi-use recreation paradise.
But none of this was by chance. This was a carefully-planned vision of city council.
“What you see at the oval is really quite close to the original plan,” says Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
“We had to come up with in a very short period of time,” he says. “We were criticized for sending our staff to places far away to do the background work, but we felt we had to because you can’t just envision and build a centre like that by reading a book.”
Today, the oval has about 6,000 members of which 80 per cent are Richmond residents. Featuring state-of-the-art training facilities, it is a unique facility capable of hosting a wide variety of summer and winter sports, health and wellness programs, cultural events and community activities.
A recent economic impact study by KPMG found that the oval has also been a major boost to the local and regional economies, generating more than $300 million to date through its construction and ongoing operation. The oval, which attracts nearly one million visitors a year (the fourth-largest tourist attraction in Metro Vancouver), supports 400 full-time equivalent jobs.
The oval has helped Richmond to become an experienced host.
Originally home to long track speed skating during the Olympics, it has since hosted many international events ranging from badminton to basketball and martial arts to volleyball. Its roots, though, remain firmly planted in the community.
Programs are designed to challenge and empower participants of all ages with the tools needed to live better and longer lives. A knowledgeable staff, including fitness instructors and trainers, is on hand to help ensure all needs are being met. Nutrition services are also available.
It all begins with the Richmond Olympic Oval Fundamental Movements School, helping a child get an active start in life, become a better overall athlete, or increase their sport-specific performance.
Each week, participants enjoy fun and high-energy games and skill-building activities to develop, refine and master fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping and throwing. Instructors are all accredited by the National Coaching Certification Program.
Using the Long-Term Athlete Development model, Playground to Podium helps each individual develop their skills through cutting-edge programs. The approach is based on early childhood physical literacy, biological windows of development, and enjoyment at every level through many sports from badminton to volleyball.
The Richmond Olympic Oval is also home to high-performance programs and services designed to fuel sustainable Canadian sport excellence on the local and international stage. Unique in Canada, the training centre includes eight Olympic cages with lifting platforms, bumper plates, 33 Olympic bars, competition grade kettle bells, push sleds and other tools to train athletes of all ages and abilities.
“If you think about a community-level athlete graduating into a provincial program, then graduating into a national team program, or an athlete who say is going to play in university in Canada or the states, we’re starting to prepare those athletes for those transitions,” says Andrew Clark, manager of fitness and high performance at the oval.
The approach is collaborative, integrating with other sport coaches, medical practitioners, and administrators to provide the training services, facilities and equipment required for each athlete to realize success.
“So if we have a young 12- or 13-year-old synchronized swimmer, for example, coming to the oval they may do their technical work at one of the local pools and strength and conditioning with us,” Clark said. “Or say we have a soccer athlete who gets a scholarship to the states. Stepping into the weight room at a higher level may be something they’ll do for the first time, whereas someone who’s trained here already knows how to take care of their body because they’ve learned that over the last five or six years.”
“What’s fairly unique about the oval is that when you look at the composition of athletes training here, we’re working with athletes from almost every sport,” he said. “And diversity is one of the things we are able to accommodate well, providing services to cater to all those fitness needs.”