In the run-up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, I ran a small team developing promotional material for distribution to high-level visitors—diplomats, dignitaries, international journalists, CEOs, and so on. I wrote and edited 34 fact-sheets on the city’s achievements in urban design, sustainability, and social inclusivity, plus a brochure and some display copy for the media centre.
Eight of the fact-sheets focused on sustainable development: the Olympic Village and South-East False Creek generally, including the Net Zero building and the False Creek Energy Centre, plus Green buildings and Green homes across the city, Laneway Housing, and aspects of the Olympic venues. The challenge here was to make technical material understandable and engaging, without distorting the facts. I had to work with engineers and senior staff to make sure we got across the big ideas clearly, and conveyed the importance of seemingly dull subjects like using using landfill gas to generate power.
The package covered a lot of other ground: everything from cycling to public art, and a number of politically tricky areas like the Downtown East Side and the Four Pillars strategy for dealing with drug addiction and crime. Here, the challenge was to boost the City’s achievements, without whitewashing its problems. Rather than everything here is great, we found ways to say this isn’t great, but here’s what we’re doing to fix it. It took a lot of thought before we could, with integrity, laud Vancouver’s livability, while acknowledging its problem with homelessness.
This was an immensely satisfying project—technically challenging, closely scrutinized, under a tight deadline, and exposed to a large and skeptical audience of media-savvy readers. Writing 34 fact sheets in a few weeks, including extensive consultation and review, was no trivial matter. I’m proud of the work I contributed, and grateful to have had such excellent collaborators, Paul Hendren and Catherine Macdonald.