The Victoria International Track Classic is recognizing the 20 years that have passed since the very successful 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games took place. Many of the events including the closing and opening ceremonies happened in Centennial Stadium, which is located on the grounds of the University of Victoria, where the Track Classic has taken place for 25 years.
Part of the recognition process is to speak with athletes and organizers who were involved with those Games. George Heller was the man at the top, as President and CEO and was largely responsible – with the help from a few friends – in delivering what is considered to be one of the most successful Games to date.
Heller is a successful businessman who was the President and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company from 1999 to 2006; he also served as Executive Vice President of the company. Heller served as President and CEO of Zellers, Kmart and of Bata Industries Ltd. He holds two Honorary Doctorates from the University of Victoria and Ryerson University.
Below he reflects on the Games and their legacy.
Christopher Kelsall: Here we are twenty years hence from the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games. When reflecting on the Games, do you feel that the legacy from the effort made it worthwhile?
George Heller: Most certainly, aside from inspiring all 15,000 of us that worked together to make an internationally acclaimed success of the Commonwealth Games, the many facilities we built have been put to great use for not only athletes, but also the people of Victoria and Canada.
CK: Victoria’s population seems to be highly active. Perhaps Victoria is a bit of a Canadian recreation mecca. Do you see a difference in the general activity level since 1994?
GH: Success leads to confidence, confidence begets engagement and engagement improves the lives of Canadians. Part of the legacy left behind was a grant of $500,000 to Volunteer Victoria to be used to foster and maintain that incredible enthusiasm to get involved. One can see the benefits today; a very vibrant, involved community.