The prestigious TED conference, about to conclude its first gathering in Vancouver, will likely remain in the city beyond next year. The current agreement will see the organization return to Vancouver in 2015. But curator Chris Anderson says he believes the conference will remain here beyond that.
"We're contracted for next year. We'd like to be here longer," he told reporters Thursday. "We wanted to get feedback from the [TED] community and … based on the feedback, I would predict that we're going to be here for quite a few years. I hope so."
But the impact of the move north was felt at the conference on Thursday, when speaker Shaka Senghor was unable to appear in person and instead delivered his talk from TED's New York office. The author, who began writing while serving a prison sentence for second-degree murder, could not get into Canada because of his criminal record, according to TED organizers. Mr. Senghor, who committed the crime when he was a 19-year-old drug dealer, has published several books, including a memoir, Writing My Wrongs.
The prime logistical challenge of moving the prestigious conference from Long Beach, Calif., where it was held for five years, to Vancouver was the need to construct a theatre for the event. New York-based architect David Rockwell designed a wooden theatre that was built inside the Vancouver Convention Centre. It will be dismantled after the conference ends on Friday, its thousands of pieces put into storage and reassembled for TED next year.
"We hadn't done it before; we didn't know of anyone else who had. And in many ways it was a mad idea," says Mr. Anderson.
But he says the results have been spectacular. "The response from the crowd has been thrilling. People really feel this is how TED is meant to feel."
The high-profile conference is considered a boost for the local economy, with a direct and indirect economic impact estimated at $4.5-million by Tourism Vancouver.
Vancouver's TED cause was no doubt helped on Thursday by a spectacular first day of spring – float planes flying by mountains dusted with fresh snow in clear view of the convention centre.
Beyond the picture postcard effect, Mr. Anderson embraced the idea of holding TED's main conference outside of the United States as a way to emphasize the fact that TED, while headquartered in New York, is not a U.S. organization.
"Symbolically, there's something beautiful about it," he says. "For the last few years, we've tried to communicate that TED has been a global organization. … So from that point of view, having the main event outside America probably is helpful. Canada has, I think, internationally a sort of wonderful, sort of neutral feel to it."