Three things businesses can learn from the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games


The 2015 Pan Am Games are in full swing and the city is abuzz with excitement—at least more than was anticipated. I’ve cheered the Canadian athletes on at a few events and have been wholly impressed by the experience. Everything from transportation to on-site organization to the athleticism and performance of Team Canada has been remarkable.

Whether or not you’ll have a chance to partake in the Games in one way or another, here are three things business leaders can learn from them:

1. Balance your message:  Leading up to the Games, many Torontonians wondered whether this international event would be a blessing or a curse for our city. That’s because it seemed the vast majority of communications were focused on the traffic headaches that would be caused by the designated High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, and the excessive cost associated with hosting Canada’s largest international multi-sport event ever. Where was the call for torchbearers or excitement surrounding the torch relay that would be passing through so many communities? How about generating excitement about all those world-class athletic competitions we’d be able to watch right in our own backyard, with ticket prices just a fraction of the cost of those for a Leafs game? I’m glad I didn’t let all this pre-game negativity deter me from attending, but I’m sure many people did. The lesson to be learned here, for businesses, is that even though there will always be practicalities and potential hot-button issues to address, we must not let them overshadow the positive messages that can, and should, be communicated. A solid media and public relations strategy can help ensure the right balance is achieved and that the good news spreads farther and wider than anything else.

2. Get back on the beam: I took my young daughters to the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics competition, and we were fortunate to witness Canada take home a silver medal. While all the gymnasts were of course striving for perfection, they did experience a few bumps and mistakes along the way. One in particular actually fell off the balance beam during her routine. While this could have shaken her confidence or caused her to give up, instead she handled it with grace. She quickly gathered herself together and hopped back on the beam, nailing the move that knocked her off in the first place, and finishing with a decent score. The same approach should be taken when running a business. Business and life are not perfect but it’s how we handle adversity and learn from our mistakes that make us stronger and more successful.

3. Look beyond the launch: One of the criticisms of Toronto’s Pan Am Games, especially from journalists who are being shuttled to and fro, is the distance between venues. While it may seem like an inconvenience to have venues spread out from Minden to Welland, the long-term impact of this spend on infrastructure could actually prove to be more beneficial to more communities than if the venues had been concentrated in downtown Toronto for example. As Tim Alamenciak asks in TVO’s The Inside Agenda blog: “After the din dies down and the Pan and Parapan Am athletes pack up their medals, will the facilities become unused monuments to grand civic dreams or thriving hubs of community engagement?” It seems the latter is in fact possible, given the forethought to future use and geographic placement of these venues. As with the development of any new business or program, spending time thinking about and planning for future sustainability, rather than just getting wrapped up in the excitement of the launch, can be enough to keep the torch burning beyond the closing ceremonies.

Persistence. Forethought. Teamwork. What other lessons can be garnered from the Games? Join the conversation below and let us know what you think.

Posted on: July 20th, 2015 by

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