Background to the Games

The story of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games actually starts at the Squaw Valley 1960 Olympic Winter Games, when Sidney Dawes, Canada’s representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that British Columbia could host an Olympic Winter Games if they could find a site near Vancouver. Soon after, the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA) was established with the aim of bringing the Olympic Winter Games to the Garibaldi region, where Whistler is located. GODA’s first bid, in 1961, was to be the Canadian nominee for the 1968 Olympic Winter Games but it lost to Banff, Alberta. 

A subsequent bid for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, led by Sport British Columbia (Sport BC), a non-profit organisation promoting and supporting amateur sports in the province, was never actually submitted. 

However, Tourism Vancouver, a local business association, saw hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games as a good opportunity for the business community and tourism. Working with Sport BC and Tourism Whistler, they commissioned a feasibility study which led to them submitting a joint Vancouver-Whistler domestic bid to the Canadian Organising Committee (COC) and forming the non-profit Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Society. 

In the domestic bid, the Society highlighted the extensive experience of the Bid Society’s chair, Arthur Griffiths, the former owner of the Vancouver Canucks, a National Hockey League franchise and experience of its team with representatives from sport, unions and the corporate sector. They also drew on Vancouver and Whistler’s history of hosting international events, at the time Whistler had hosted more International Ski Federation World Cup competitions than anywhere else. It was announced that Vancouver-Whistler had won the domestic bid on the 1st December 1998. 

On the 11th June 1999 the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation was established with funding from the COC, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and in July 2001 it gained the official support of the Government of Canada. 

In February 2002 the IOC confirmed the name of the bid had to change to, the Vancouver 2010 Bid, to comply with Olympic Charter, Rule 33 'The honour and responsibility of hosting the Olympic Games are entrusted by the IOC to a city…' and Rule 34, by-law 1.3 'Should there be several potential applicant cities in the same country to the same Olympic Games, one city may apply, as decided by the NOC of the country concerned.'

The IOC shortlist, announced on the 2nd August 28, 2002, consisted of Vancouver, Berne (Switzerland), PyeongChang (South Korea) and Salzburg (Austria). 

The Bid Book (or Candidature File) began its journey to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on the 6th January 2003 when, Canadian alpine skiing champion, Rob Boyd, carried it as he skied from the peak of Whistler Mountain and down the Dave Murray Downhill10 course. It was taken on to Lausanne by Larry Campbell, Mayor of Vancouver and Jack Poole, Bid Corporation Chairman, arriving on the 9th January 2003.

Sponsors of the bid invited thousands to an event at General Motors (GM) Place in Vancouver, while in Whistler, the main square was filled with residents, watching the live broadcast as IOC President Jacques Rogge announced at 8:45am:

The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing that the twenty-first Olympic Winter Games in 2010 are awarded to the city of Vancouver.

Dubbed the 'Sea-to-Sky' Games, athletes, visitors, and television viewers were promised spectacular views and venues. 

The Bid Corporation described its vision of the Olympics and Paralympics as 'one festival, two events'. As well as promising that all the new facilities would meet or exceed national and local accessibility standards they provided disability awareness training to all of their staff. Wherever possible the requirements for both Games were considered at the same time, for example, the same security planning team covered both with additional protocols being developed for the rescue and evacuation of people with disabilities. 

With a communication strategy designed to champion sport without discrimination, they sought to communicate inclusive messages and images to 'build pride in the achievements of our Paralympic athletes, educate the broader population and foster a greater understanding of the power of mind, body and spirit' in their pre-Games communications. 

After Vancouver was awarded the Games, Chairman of the Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), Jack Poole, said,

If it hadn’t been for the full support of the Four Host First Nations in our bid, we likely wouldn’t be talking about Vancouver 2010 today.

The Canadian constitution recognises three groups of Aboriginal peoples, First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Chief Joe Mathias, then leader of the Squamish First Nation, was at the first meeting of the Domestic Bid Committee, believing it to be important for First Nations to participate in a major event that could take place in their traditional territories. The Domestic Bid Book included a letter of support from the Squamish Nation Council.  

Each of the Four Host First Nations were represented on the Bid Corporation’s board of directors, with one sitting on the Executive Committee. In November 2002, the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations signed the Partners Creating Shared Legacies from the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Agreement. This included commitments to economic development, a skills and training legacy project, contributions to a Squamish and Lil’wat cultural centre, shared ownership of new athletic facilities, a contribution to an endowment fund, Olympic legacy housing for the Nations, economic and contracting opportunities and an Aboriginal youth sports legacy fund, building on the Squamish-Lil’wat Protocol Agreement signed in 2001.

In July 2003, the TsleilWaututh and Musqueam Nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding Respecting a Cooperative Working Relationship Towards 2010 Olympic Winter Games and Winter Paralympic Games Participation and Legacies.

These agreements enabled the development of effective working relationships between the Organising Committee and each Nation, while confirming the Nations’ commitment to participate and identifying possible benefits and legacies.

The build-up to the Games


Logo for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games

The logo illustrates the host country, in particular Whistler’s coastal forests and mountains. It is also said to signify the athletes’ mountainous inner strength as they push themselves to new heights, symbolising the unity between athlete and the mountains.


The English slogan for the Vancouver Games was 'With Glowing Hearts'. When the slogan was revealed, Vancouver Organising Committee Chief Executive Officer, John Furlong, said that the slogan is:

connected and familiar to all Canadians through our anthem ‘O Canada’ and it also embodies what it takes to be an Olympic or Paralympic athlete. 

There was also a French slogan for the Games 'Des plus brillants exploits'. John Furlong said that the slogan:

references the pinnacle of achievement and the extraordinary feats of human endeavour that will occur, both for the athletes and for everyone involved in staging the 2010 Winter Games.

Changes to Events

Women could participate in ice sledge hockey for the first time at the Vancouver Games. Teams went from being 'men only' to 'mixed' and countries could bring up to 16 athletes for a team as long as one of them was female.


The Bid Corporation, keen to show it was focused on meeting the needs of the athletes and ensuring the sporting legacy was sustainable by:

  • Choosing competitive venues after considering their location, accessibility, amenities and ability to provide a world-class competitive sport experience.
  • Arranging venues and accommodation in close proximity to each other to minimise travel time and maximise convenience.
  • Ensuring new venues had operating endowments to support them as part of the Games legacy. 
  • Designing the athletes village to maximise the comfort and enhance the experience of the athletes.
  • In conjunction with national and International Sport Federations (IFs), reviewing the plan to ensure the venues provided optimal competitive conditions and could accommodate the supporting functions.
  • Taking advantage of existing facilities making sure they met the IFs standards and supported a legacy of sporting excellence.


  • Hillcrest/Nat Bailey Stadium Park
    The Vancouver Paralympic Centre is four kilometres from the Paralympic Village and was completed in 2007 at a cost of $15.5 million (USD). After the Paralympics, it became a community recreation area with a community centre, library, skating rink and indoor/outdoor swimming facility. It is the home of the Vancouver Curling Club and has four ice sheets.
    Spectator capacity – 6,000.
    Used for wheelchair curling.
  • Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
    The Centre is part of the University of British Columbia and has three ice surfaces.
    Spectator capacity – 7,000 for the largest ice surface.
    Used for ice sledge hockey.


  • Whistler Paralympic Park
    The venue was completed at a cost of $119.7 million and is now open to the public offering snow activities for all ages and abilities, including dog-friendly ski and snowshoe trails!
    Used for biathlon and cross-country skiing.
  • Whistler Creekside
    Work on the venue was completed in 2007 at an estimated cost of $27.6 million. Outdoor spectator capacities were reduced from the original number planned so they would not overwhelm the local roads.
    Spectator capacity – 3,500.
    Used for alpine skiing.


Mascot for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games

Sumi, mascot for the Vancouver Paralympics © IPC

The mascot for the Vancouver Games was a chimera called Sumi. The name is based on the Salish word 'Sumesh' meaning guardian spirit. Its legs are those of a black bear and its arms are the wings of the legendary thunderbird. Sumi also wears a hat in the style of an orca whale. It was designed by Meomi Design and is said to represent the diverse backgrounds of the athletes competing at the Games. Meomi Design also created the mascot for the 2010 Olympic Games.

The Paralympic Flame

The torch was 1-metre long and had an ergonomic, curved design. It featured the Games logo and two slogans. It was designed by Bombardier’s aerospace and transportation design teams and was designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -50C to over 40C, through rain, sleet, snow and wind.

The torch relay began on 3 March 2010 and lasted for 10 days. Over 600 torchbearers were involved, and the torch visited 11 communities across Canada, culminating in a 24-hour long circular relay through downtown Vancouver. The flame was lit by Zach Beaumont, a 15-year old disabled snowboarder.

The Paralympic Cauldron lit at BC Place © Ian Brittain

The opening ceremony

The Opening Ceremony took place before a sell-out crowd of 60,000 people at the BC Place, a multi-purpose stadium in Vancouver on 12 March 2010. The theme of the event was 'one inspires many' and was a celebration of ability, courage and the human spirit. A total of 506 Paralympians, from 44 countries, took part in the event. Audience members were given several interactive items, including a pom-pom of orange lights and a luminescent gold card, which they used to participate in the celebrations. 

The International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven, thanked the organising committee and the volunteers for their hard work in the lead up to the Games. John Furlong, the Vancouver Organising Committee Chief Executive, also gave a speech to welcome everyone to the Games. The Games were officially opened by Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada. 

The event was broadcast live on the Paralympic Games’ online stream (, as well as in several countries around the world.

During the Games

There were two Paralympic Villages, one in Vancouver and a second in Whistler, which accommodated the athletes and officials. With accessibility a high priority both Villages were designed to be barrier free.

The Medals

Medals for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics  Gold medal for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics

Gold medal designs © Ian Brittain

At most Games, medals were circular in shape. However, the Vancouver Games broke with tradition and designed medals that were squarer, with rounded corners and an undulating surface. The nature of this design meant that no medal could be replicated exactly resulting in a unique medal for each athlete. 

The medals featured the IPC logo and the Games emblem, as well as the words 'Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games' in French, English and Braille.

Medal statistics

502 athletes from 44 countries competed in 64 events in 5 sports. The Great Britain team consisting of 7 men and 5 women, competed in Alpine skiing and Wheelchair Curling, they didn't win any medals.

British Paralympic athletes

Alpine Skiing

  • Kelly Gallagher
    Kelly’s visual impairment is the result of oculocutaneous albinism, an inherited condition affecting the colouring of hair, skin and eyes. The low levels of pigmentation in the iris (coloured part of the eye) and the retina (tissue at the back of the eye which is light sensitive) are what cause the impairment. The first representative from Northern Ireland at a Paralympic Winter Games she made her debut in Vancouver, with guide Claire Robb, narrowly missing out on a medal when she finished 4th in the Women’s Giant Slalom Visually Impaired event, before going on to win Britain’s first winter Paralympic gold at Sochi in 2014, with guide Charlotte Evans.
  • Jane Sowerby
    Paralysed from the waist down after falling down a flight of stairs in 2003, Jane took up para-skiing in 2005 during a trip to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in America.
  • Anna Turney
    An accident in Japan in 2006 that left Anna paralysed from the waist down, ended her dream of representing Great Britain as a snowboarder. Inspired by the Torino 2006 Winter Paralympic Games, she took up mono-skiing in 2007 and was soon a member of the British Disabled Ski Team. Competing in Vancouver meant she achieved a goal she had set herself while she was in hospital. 
  • Russell Docker
    Having started skiing at the age of 18, Russell was left with partial paraplegia after a skiing holiday accident in 2005. Determined to return to the sport and regain fitness he took up sit-skiing soon after his accident.
  • Timothy Farr
    In 2004, Tim broke his back on a university skiing trip in Les Deux Alps, a year later he returned to the slopes with the charity Back Up. While there he met some of British Disabled Ski Team and it was that meeting which started him on the road to competing at the Paralympics.
  • Sean Rose
    After breaking his back in a skiing accident in 2000, Sean became World Disabled Overall WaterSki Champion in 2005 before representing Great Britain at both the Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
  • Talan Skeels-Piggins
    After a 2003 motorbike accident left him with paraplegia from the chest down, Talan took up skiing in 2004 at the age of 34 after being inspired by a wheelchair user who skied that he met while in hospital. 

Wheelchair Curling

Michael McCreadie competing in wheelchair curling at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics

Michael McCreadie competing in wheelchair curling at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics © Getty Images

All the members of the curling team played at Braehead Curling Club near Glasgow and Michael McCreadie, Angie Malone and Tom Killin were also members of the silver medal winning team at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Games. They were - 

  • Angie Malone
  • Aileen Neilson
  • Tom Killin
  • Michael McCreadie
  • Jim Sellar

Media coverage at the event

There were approximately 1,200 media representatives covering the Games, which was an increase of 12% from the previous Paralympics, and events attracted a TV audience of 1.6 billion. Japan saw the biggest audience (almost 538 million viewers), followed by Germany with nearly 400 million. The IPC’s online streaming service provided over 437,000 live streams across the Games. 

Alpine skiing was the most popular event amongst viewers (690 million people).

The closing ceremony

The Closing Ceremony took place on 21 March 2010. The IPC President, Sir Philip Craven, gave a speech in which he said that the Games had provided a sense of family and community, as well as providing viewers with elite-level sport. There followed the official presentation of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award to Endo Takayuki of Japan and Collette Bourgonje of Canada. This achievement is awarded to athletes who best exemplify the spirit of the Paralympic Games and has been an award since the 1988 Games in Seoul. It is in honour of Dr Whang Youn Dai, an advocate for persons with disabilities. 

The Ceremony also included performances by Quebec’s La Bottine Souriante and Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq.


  • Brittain, I.S.,From Stoke Mandeville to Sochi: A History of the summer and Winter Paralympic Games, Champaign, Illinois, Common Ground Publishing, 2012