Late one night in January 1950, Erwin Swangard’s eyes grew wide as a news item unfurled from the teletype machine in The Province newsroom. The British Empire Games Federation appeared set to name Canada as the probable site for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, with Hamilton the most likely host city.

“Screw Hamilton,” Swangard reportedly said. “We must get them in Vancouver.”

He phoned Vancouver mayor Charles Thompson, but the mayor wanted none of it and hung up.

In his forceful way, Swangard then called his entire sports department into the office in the middle of the night and had them phone every major sports and tourism leader in the city to build support. Swangard then awoke Thompson a second time that night and strong-armed the mayor into calling a meeting at City Hall the following week. Long story short, with the ball now rolling, Vancouver ultimately won the right to host the Games, a major turning point in elevating the city onto the world sports map.

That was Swangard in a nutshell—stubborn, determined, fiercely proud of his city. Time and time again during his lifetime, often through his own sheer will, Swangard worked to build sport in Vancouver.

Born in Munich, Germany, Swangard, fearing the rising Nazi party, fled to Canada in early 1930 and worked odd jobs before latching on with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix doing freelance sports reporting. He returned to Germany in 1936 to cover the Winter and Summer Olympics for the Vancouver Sun and Toronto Globe. After several promotions in Saskatoon, Swangard jumped to the Province in Vancouver in 1944 and resided in the city for decades thereafter.

Five years as Province sports editor saw Swangard switch offices to the Sun Tower where he served as Sun sports editor among other titles. From 1959-68, he served as managing editor.

During his time at the Sun, he led or inspired campaigns which brought to Vancouver: Empire Stadium and the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games; the BC Lions in 1954; the first-ever Grey Cup game outside of Toronto in 1955; the Vancouver Mounties Pacific Coast League baseball franchise in 1956 and its’ revival in 1965; the legalization of Sunday sport in Vancouver in 1958; $6 million in funding to build the Pacific Coliseum in 1968; and $1 million for the picturesque stadium in Burnaby’s Central Park that still bears his name, Swangard Stadium.

Along the way Swangard founded the Sun Tournament of Champions in 1952, an annual youth soccer tournament that contributed to the game’s massive growth in BC over several decades. In 1967, Prime Minister Lester Pearson appointed him to the National Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Amateur Sport.

Following brief sorties running a northern BC newspaper chain, rescuing an ailing Nigerian newspaper in Africa, and serving as news director of CJOR radio in Vancouver, Swangard returned to the realm of sport by serving as president of the Pacific National Exhibition from 1977-89.

His lifelong efforts were recognized with several honours including the Order of Canada in 1989 and the Order of BC in 1990.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.