How British Columbia trumped California for Olympics of ideas

Photo of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg from TED website

After 30 years of sunshine and warm beaches, moving a well-entrenched and highly respected conference of the world’s brightest minds in technology, entertainment and design was a major decision. But Vancouver had a secret weapon.

For the past 10 years, a small group of TED conference employees has toiled away in relative obscurity in North Vancouver, organizing the world renowned conference for intellectual thinkers and doers in business, arts, sciences, academia and philanthropy. Their knowledge of the views, the livability and the atmosphere of West Coast open mindedness impacted on the choice of Vancouver as a natural fit for the four-day main conference described as “the ultimate brain spa”.

Asked if the decision to move the main TED event to Vancouver was influenced by TED staffers already here, a North Vancouver organizer said “absolutely”, however she did not want to elaborate.

In New York, however, TED Curator Chris Anderson says the decision was not influenced by its Vancouver employees.

Vancouver Convention Centre big draw for TED organizers

Vancouver's many great qualities were the deciding factor, not our internal operations. When it came time for us to look at possible new cities to host our 30th anniversary TED Conference – a big deal for us – we explored many options”, said Anderson. “We chose Vancouver for a number of reasons. It's vibrant, committed to sustainability, remarkably walkable and located in a gorgeous natural setting.”

On Monday, after months of secret negotiations, TED officials announced the move to BC in 2014 after three decades beside the beaches of California.

The official news release echoed Anderson’s comment, recognizing Vancouver for its “livability, walkability, sustainability, innovation – and stunning natural beauty”. A bonus selling point: a panoramic backdrop of snow capped mountains through the huge windows of the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Vancouver also appealed to us for its state-of-the-art Vancouver Convention Centre. In addition to being beautiful and LEED-certified, the venue also has a space where we can custom-design our own theater,” says Anderson.

The promise of a new TED theatre for the often inspiring 18 minute lectures also played a part in the decision to move north of the border. TED organizers say they and city officials are now planning “a custom theater designed to maximize the impact of talks, permitting multiple configurations for sitting, listening and connecting with audience members, speakers, and performers.

The location of that theatre is not lost on tourism officials hoping to market the stunning views of the water and North Vancouver. The convention centre boasts a 55-foot high space, looking out through massive windows to views of the snow capped coastal mountains; a panorama that will be captured forever in TED Talk videos that have so far been viewed a billion times online.

As ideas and dreams are disseminated, attendees will be enveloped in the vistas of Vancouver, while online viewers will be treated to the majestic views crucial to the marketing of the city.

The Vancouver Convention Centre... coupled with the proximity of world-class hotels, will offer an intimate and inspirational setting to engage delegates,” says the gushing news release from both Tourism Vancouver and the Canadian Tourism Commission. It also offers the city an unparalleled marketing opportunity as the TED host city and country, on par with major business, cultural and sporting events globally.

Opportunity to establish city as place where great ideas are born and cultivated

For entrepreneurs whose ideas have flourished in Vancouver, the decision to move here makes perfect sense.

While TED joining our community is going to be a fantastic means of drawing further attention and talent to the area, I strongly believe that we are already on the cutting edge of many industries, tech especially,” said Ryan Holmes, CEO of Vancouver based Hootsuite. “They chose Vancouver for a reason, and that's something to be proud of.”

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