It was a hot, humid November night as the exotic Thai city of Bangkok handed the coveted One Young World Summit baton to Ottawa –the 2016 Summit host.
On hand to accept the torch from the Governor of Bangkok, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, was Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, whose positive energy and excitement stayed strong despite the sticky evening heat.
Flanked by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Sergeant in an iconic red wool uniform, Mayor Watson delivered a comedic and youth-friendly speech that praised Canadian accomplishments such as the invention of basketball and more notably, the zipper. Mayor Watson also congratulated Bangkok on a successful Summit and said that “Ottawa is proud to be the first Canadian city to host One Young World.”
This yearly Summit, which is going into its seventh year, brings together 1,200 to 1,500 young leaders from more than 190 countries to discuss important issues and to drive positive change across the globe. For the 2015 Bangkok Summit, 196 countries took part including the war-torn nation of Syria. “Apart from the Olympic Games, no other youth event brings together as many nationalities under one roof,” Isabel Leigh, Strategy and Communications Director at One Young World told Ottawa Tourism in a previous article.
After Mayor Watson’s entertaining speech, One Young World Bangkok delegates, volunteers and observers were treated to a taste of what Ottawa and Canada have to offer.
First to take the stage was young entrepreneur David White Deer Charette. From Wikwemikong Manitoulin Island, Ont., Charette wore a traditional costume and beat a drum while mesmerizing the crowd with two hauntingly beautiful Aboriginal chants.
Charette was then followed by world-renowned dancer and virtuoso musician Stephanie Cadman. Despite the heat, Cadman – who has shared the stage with Oscar Peterson, The Chieftains and many more – got the crowd going with an East Coast fiddle beat and high-energy tap dancing.
Crowd entertainer George Thomas then got the Bangkok crowd dancing with the help of an Ottawa Tourism team and other Canadian delegates.
Lesley Mackay, Director of Convention Sales at Ottawa Tourism and a member of the team who helped bring this high-profile event to Canada’s Capital, said in an interview that Ottawa received “great exposure” during the Summit in Bangkok, which took place from Nov. 18-21, 2015. “It was great to see how many people wanted to find out more about Ottawa and Canada,” she said. “They were expressing that they were interested in attending next year.”
She noted that Mayor Watson himself was also very well-received internationally, with many delegates praising the Leading Urban Innovation session he participated in along with Bangkok’s Governor. Mackay added that many delegates were fascinated with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new Prime Minister. “I got the sense that Canada is very well-regarded.”
But now that the Bangkok Summit has come to an end, Mackay said the work for Ottawa is only just beginning.
She noted that a “tremendous amount of community engagement” needs to take place before the 2016 Summit to allow Ottawa to present a unique event characterized by well-known Canadian warmth and flair. “We’ll do our Summit in a Canadian way,” she said, adding the Ottawa Summit will seek to immerse delegates in the Ottawa community and into Canadian culture. “I think this will be our strength.”
Home dinners are already being planned for the Ottawa Summit, which will see delegates enjoy a home-cooked meal with an Ottawa family.
Mackay noted that in contrast to Bangkok, where the size and security of the city were major concerns, Ottawa has the luxury of being a smaller, walkable city where delegates can move around safely and be more involved in the surrounding local community. “Just the sheer size of Ottawa I think, will provide an exceptional delegate experience that maybe people didn’t get to experience in Bangkok this year,” she said.
In terms of moving forward for the Summit next fall, Mackay said Ottawa learned lots from Bangkok in the areas of pageantry and the involvement of local businesses. “We’re now looking at how best we can learn from what Bangkok did and put our own Ottawa and Canadian touch on it,” she said.
One Young World aims to put the positive efforts of the globe’s youth (18 to 30-years-old) on an international stage. Mackay said that in advance of the 2016 Summit, organisations should consider sending their best and brightest to this event. “Companies should be looking at their young talent to send to the Summit,” she said.
The Ottawa Summit will take place at the Shaw Centre from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, 2016. To learn more about the Summit, browse Ottawa Tourism’s website and get in touch with us. Also, the famous One Young World baton will be on display at Ottawa City Hall until it is needed for next year’s Summit.