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Roberge excited by Whistler opportunities

Audience participation part of plans for Paralympic closing ceremonies in Celebration Plaza



Whistler residents will be an important part of the cast of the closing ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympic Games.

The just appointed producer of the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies, Patrick Roberge, believes that audience participation will give the events an honest and emotional quality, which will make them unforgettable to those who watch and those who participate.

"We want to make the shows very participatory," said Roberge, who founded B.C.-based Patrick Roberge Productions in 1986.

"We want to let people have an opportunity to be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity."

An estimated 1,350 athletes from 40 countries will be at the two-hour Opening Ceremony in the 55,000-seat B.C. Place on Friday, March 12, 2010. The closing two-hour ceremony takes place Sunday, March 21, at Celebration Plaza in Whistler. The celebrations are budgeted to cost $4.8 million.

Roberge was a stage manager at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games and he said the experience has helped him understand how truly powerful it is for everyday people to be involved.

"It was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget and I bring that with me whenever I do these projects," said Roberge.

"You have to remember that it is about the shared experience. That is the most overwhelming part of it.

"There were 6,000 performers and they were all from Calgary. They were excited to be part of it and I remember the emotion and the legacy that created for the people... They had an opportunity to do something that they knew they would never get to go through ever again in their lives.

"If we can create that kind of participatory enthusiasm for both these events then I will go away from it thinking we did a job well done.

"What a great opportunity for everyone in Whistler to say we are here and we are going to put our best foot forward."

PRP has produced events and spectacles around the world. Veterans of Expo 86 and the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, PRP has created memorable events including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Royal Jubilee visit to Vancouver; the inaugural Chinese New Year Parade in Hong Kong; the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Emblem launch and mascot launch; and most recently produced the Canada Games' ceremonies in Whitehorse and events at the B.C.-Canada Pavilions in Torino, Italy and Beijing, China.

PRP's experience in telling unique Canadian stories has included anniversary celebrations for Rick Hansen's Man in Motion Tour, the 25th anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope and the opening of the North American Indigenous Games.

Roberge said he is excited about working with an outdoor venue in Whistler and points to the Lillehammer Winter Games in 1994 as one of his personal favourites because it used the ski hills as the backdrop to the ceremonies.

"...They produced opening ceremonies right on the ski hill and had people popping out of the snow," said Roberge of Lillehammer.

"They didn't try to hide the fact that that was what they were and that was what they were all about.

"What is spectacular about (the Celebration Plaza) is that you look around and there is no question that you are in Whistler.

"You are not in any arena anywhere in the world. You are in a very special place in the world. So from that perspective I am very excited because I think it lends itself to do some very creative things and it's going to celebrate the fact that we are right there in the heart of it."