Celebrating 25 years of Para sport: 2003 Vancouver announcement rocks Canadian Paralympic world

Big step forward for inclusion as first time both Games on one billing
Pfizer25 - 2003

Brian MacPherson was chief operating officer at the Canadian Paralympic Committee from 2001 to 2010. He still remembers that historic day in 2003 when it was announced the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were coming to Canada.

MacPherson knew that it meant CPC would become a major player in the seven years from the awarding of the Games to the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. During his tenure, CPC grew from a staff of two to 30 due in large part to the Games being awarded to Vancouver.

‘’We thought Vancouver had a good chance, but you can never be sure until it is said and done,’’ said MacPherson, the current CEO of Commonwealth Games Canada. ‘’But we knew once that announcement was made it was going to change our world. We knew that the Paralympics in the future would be measured by before and after the Vancouver announcement.’’

MacPherson said two major goals were established towards the Paralympics. The first was to establish awareness to the Canadian public of the Paralympic world.

‘’We did some polling in 2002 and the public awareness was at three percent and that was a hard sell to potential sponsors,’’ he said. ‘’We kept measuring every year and in 2010 after the Games that number increased to 86 percent which really helped sell our brand.’’

Vancouver marks the first time a Games organizing committee officially included the word “Paralympic”: Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. There were other firsts as well from an organization standpoint, including a national Paralympic committee member on the Board of Directors (who would be Patrick Jarvis) and the word Paralympic being included in all Games sponsorship activities (more than 60 sponsorships).

The second goal was to create a sustainable financial windfall for CPC, which was harder to achieve, said MacPherson. An endowment fund was eventually created with 10 percent of the surplus for the Games going to CPC to grow Paralympic sport in Canada. The federal government also kicked in additional guaranteed funding, support that continues to this day.  

That announcement in 2003 also inspired Tyler Mosher to pursue a goal to compete at the Paralympic Games in his hometown. Mosher was a snowboarder when he was injured in the sport in 2000. In 2003, he was encouraged to take up Para nordic skiing in an aim to qualify for Vancouver 2010. At the time, Para snowboard wasn’t yet on the Games program. 

‘’I’ve always been an athlete and pursuing a spot on the cross-country team for 2010 was the best decision I ever made,’’ said Mosher, who achieved his dream of competing at the Paralympic Games on home soil. He also competed in snowboard at the 2014 Games. ‘’Until then the recovery from my spinal cord injury had been really hard and the cross-country skiing really helped in my rehab.’’

Whether it was the 2003 announcement or the actual 2010 Games, there’s no doubt Vancouver-Whistler ignited a competitive fire in many future Para athletes.

This year, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Pfizer Canada are celebrating 25 years of supporting and promoting the Paralympic Movement together. Throughout 2021, we will look back on special sporting moments and milestones from each year of the partnership. 

Click here to read each moment so far.