John Furlong (sports administrator)

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John A. F. Furlong
Olympic Order, OC, OBC, LLD (hc), D.Tech (hc)
John Furlong.jpg
Chief executive officer of Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games
In office
February 21, 2004[1] – December 31, 2010
Leader Jacques Rogge
Preceded by Valentino Castellani
Succeeded by Dmitry Chernyshenko
Personal details
Born (1950-10-12) October 12, 1950 (age 67)
Tipperary, Ireland
Nationality Irish, Canadian
Spouse(s) Margaret Cook (m. 1970–76)
Dayle Turner (1978–82)
Gail Robb (m. 1984–2011)
Deborah Sharp (m. 2012–her death 2013)
Renee Smith-Valade (2016)
Residence BC
Occupation Sports administrator

John Furlong, OC,[2] OBC[3] (born October 12, 1950)[4] is a Canadian administrator of sports organizations widely recognized for overseeing the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics as President and CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC).

Furlong is the Chairman of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, chairman of Rocky Mountaineer,[5] corporate director of Canadian Tire,[6] Volunteer chair of Own the Podium and a public speaker.[7]

Furlong first visited Canada as a physical education teacher and missionary from 1969 to 1972 in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the communities of Burns Lake and Prince George. At the conclusion of his teaching term he returned home to Ireland and served as a sports administrator at Newpark Comprehensive School before deciding to officially emigrate to Canada in 1975.[8][9][10] He was also president of the Arbutus Club, a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, and head of the BC Summer Games, BC Winter Games, and Sport B.C.[3]

He has cited Canada as being possibly unique in appointing an immigrant to be CEO of their Olympic Games.[11]

His performance and leadership in the Canadian Sport community and specifically in the highly successful staging of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games led to wide recognition such as the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia as well as numerous honorary degrees and other awards.

After the Games accusations of errors and omissions in his autobiography and abuse allegations were published dating back to his years as a missionary and teacher.[12] Furlong has vehemently denied all of the allegations, none of which have been tested in court. A full summary of legal actions taken in these matters follows below.

Olympic and Paralympic Games[edit]

Furlong chaired the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation (2001–04) and pitched Vancouver in Prague in its bid to the International Olympic Committee to host the Winter Games.


Furlong is chair of Own the Podium, a Canadian not-for-profit organization created several years before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games to develop Canada as a world leader in high performance sport. With Own the Podium support Team Canada won a record 26 medals at the Vancouver Olympic Games including an historic 14 gold medals.[11] Later, Own the Podium provided significant targeted funding support to the Canadian Team that competed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games and won a record 29 medals, in the absence of a full Russian team.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riots, at the request of then-Premier Christie Clark John Furlong and Douglas Keefe provided 53 recommendations in their September 2011 report, The Night the City Became a Stadium: Independent Review of 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Playoffs Riot.[13]

Furlong served as advisor to the organizers of the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, British Columbia.[11]

In July 2016, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced that Furlong will chair the Special Committee for Home Games (SCHG) to assist Calgary if it decides to bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.[12][14]

In July 2017, Furlong joined the Victoria, British Columbia bid committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.[15][16] In August 2017, Victoria's bid was cancelled after the provincial government declined financial support.[17] In October 2017, Furlong and Victoria bid committee chair David Black attempted to revive Victoria's bid. In an opinion column published by Victoria News, a Black Press news site owned by David Black, Furlong expressed his support for Victoria's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.[18] There is no evidence that the provincial government reconsidered its decision.

Business activities[edit]

In 2010, Furlong joined the board of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc.[9][19] With the sale of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings to Vail Resprts in 2016, Furlong's term on the board ended.

In 2016, Furlong and Gareth Rees led Rugby Canada's bid for Vancouver's to host the World Rugby Sevens World Series event.[20][21][22] He continues to chair the annual tournament.

Furlong is chairman of Rocky Mountaineer, a rail tourism company based in Vancouver[23] and board member with its owner Armstrong Group Ltd.

Since 2011, Furlong has served as a member of the corporate board of Canadian Tire retailer. He is also board chairman of the Canadian Tire charitable organization, Jumpstart, that funds youth sport called.

As a paid keynote speaker, Furlong is a member of the National Speakers Bureau.[24]


John Furlong had been the subject of some controversy following accusations of errors and omissions in his autobiography and legal actions arising from abuse allegations.

Accusations of biographical inaccuracies and omissions[edit]

Patriot Hearts[edit]

On February 12, 2011, the one-year anniversary of the Olympics, Furlong published his autobiography Patriot Hearts – Inside the Olympics that Changed a Country.

Furlong wrote in Patriot Hearts that he left Ireland and arrived in Canada in late 1974 with his wife and young family to make Canada his permanent home. He later corrected the date of immigration to 1975 under cross-examination (Robinson v. Furlong).[10][25] Furlong had been a visiting teacher in Canada from 1969 to 1972 as a Frontier Apostle missionary at a school in Burns Lake and Prince George, British Columbia.[26][27][28] In June 1972, Furlong returned to Ireland following threats against his life.[29][30]

Furlong wrote that Jack Furlong, his father, identified the body of his niece, Siobhan Roice, after she was killed in the Dublin bombings.[31] Siobhan's family's account of the event differs from Furlong's, stating that her father Edward "Ned" Roice identified her body.[32][33][34] Furlong later confirmed that it was his father Jack who identified the shattered body of his niece however her grief-stricken mother was protected from the truth by her family.[citation needed]

Furlong wrote that the May 1974 terrorist bombings in Dublin and deaths of his cousin and his father prompted his decision to emigrate that year.[31] In fact, Furlong returned to Canada over a year following these events, in fall 1975, a date which he later corrected under questioning.[35][10][25]

Furlong wrote that a recruiter visiting Ireland invited him to set up a high school athletic program in Prince George, British Columbia.[31] In fact, Furlong was already well known to this Prince George high school as their former physical education teacher and coach.[28]

Furlong wrote that he had been a "young teacher with just two years' experience" in 1974 when he accepted a job with a Prince George high school. In fact, he accepted the position with Prince George College in 1975 (not 1974) as a teacher with at least five years' experience (Immaculata Catholic School and Prince George College, 1969–72 and Newpark Comprehensive School, circa 1972–75).[28]

That Furlong's visiting teacher and missionary years in Canada are not included in his book is controversial because the timeline coincides with allegations Furlong abused First Nations children while a missionary and teacher at a school in Burns Lake (1969–70). Co-author Gary Mason has stated that Furlong never mentioned the visiting teacher years in Canada.[36] Under testimony in BC Supreme Court, a sworn witness confirmed that Furlong had spoken to VANOC staff of his time teaching at Burns Lake and had also made a formal visit with a First Nations team to the community in advance of the 2010 Games. The witness confirmed that based on his history teaching on Northern BC, that Furlong strongly supported the inclusion of these communities in the Olympic Torch relay route.[citation needed]

Furlong has never discussed his employment at Newpark Comprehensive School in Dublin Ireland (circa 1972–75).[37] During this time, George Gibney, the disgraced former Irish national swim team coach, also taught and managed athletics at the Newpark.[37] In 1976, Furlong told a reporter only that he had managed a government sports centre in Ireland before returning to Canada.[28]

Athletic career[edit]

Biographies associated with his speaking engagements and awards such as the Order of British Columbia state that Furlong was the 1986 Canadian Squash Champion.[38][39] Jamie Hickox won the 1986 title, which led to his participation in the 1986 Men's World Championships.[40] John Furlong was one of three age group winners in 1986 Canadian Squash Championships. Squash Canada does not recognize Furlong as the 1986 Canadian Squash Champion.[41]

In the lead up to 1978 Northern B.C. Winter Games, Furlong is quoted in a newspaper article as saying he had competed in the Olympics two times.[42]. Furlong maintains publicly the newspaper made a mistake; that he competed for Ireland in various sports competitions and dreamed of competing in the Olympics, but never did. There is no evidence that Furlong attended any Olympic Games as a competitor.

In 1975, Furlong stated he had played internationally for Ireland for eight years.[43] This statement has been explained by Furlong as a summary of his years competing on Irish teams in his teens before his temporary teaching assignment in Canada and for three years upon returning to Ireland before permanently immigrating to Canada.[citation needed] This claim is unsupported by a timeline that finds Furlong in Canada from age 18 years (1969–72).

Abuse allegations[edit]

There have been no criminal charges against Furlong and three civil claims were cancelled, yet there continues to be high-profile advocacy by First Nations and others for further investigation.

On September 26, 2012, The Georgia Straight published an article that reported allegations that children in the 1970s were physically and mentally abused while Furlong was a missionary and physical education teacher at Immaculata Catholic School, a residential school, in Burns Lake.[44] The article, by journalist Laura Robinson, was supported by over 45 statements, including eight affidavits.[44] Robinson's response to Furlong's defamation action included additional allegations supported by statements that he emotionally, physically and sexually abused his first and second wives.[45][46]

Abuse allegations against Furlong have never been heard nor accepted as evidence in court.[47][48] Three former students, who were not part of the Georgia Straight story, alleged that Furlong sexually, physically, and verbally abused them.[49][50] In 2013, these three former students filed failed civil lawsuits against Furlong, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Roman Catholic Prince George Diocese, and the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George.[50][51][52]

Based on changes in information from interviews by the RCMP with one of the three accusers, a BC Supreme Court Judge concluded that the woman had not actually attended the school where she had accused Furlong of abuse.[53] In fact, the woman had attended the school during Furlong's tenure according to documents presented at a later trial (Robinson v. Furlong).[54] A second woman dropped her civil case after it was deemed unfounded.[53] The third plaintiff, a man, also was incorrectly deemed not to have attended during Furlong's tenure at Immaculata.[54] He was found to have already received $120,822 in compensation for a claim against another accused at a different school at the same time period as his claim against Furlong.[53]

Furlong was accused by witnesses of abusing his first wife while they lived in Prince George (1970–72).[36]

Ongoing advocacy[edit]

First Nations are continuing advocacy for further investigation into the allegations.[55][56]

In a November 2015 open letter, three First Nations hereditary chiefs and five Furlong accusers called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove John Furlong from Own the Podium pending a hearing of their claims.[57]

In January 2016, a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council (CDC) sought appeal of a judge's decision due to incorrect information.[58] CDC dismissed the complaint.[59]

In July 2016, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) passed a resolution to pressure the federal government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to formally investigate multiple abuse allegations against Furlong.[60][61]

In a December 2016 complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, six Northern British Columbia First Nations members formally accused the federal government and RCMP of racial and ethnic discrimination in mishandling their allegations that John Furlong abused them.[62]

Questions have been raised about the relationship between Furlong and the RCMP officers who investigated abuse allegations against him. Some of these senior officers had worked closely with Furlong on Olympic security. This relationship was not revealed and these officers did not recuse themselves from the investigation.[63]

In January 2017, University of British Columbia president Santa J. Ono apologized to Furlong for cancelling his keynote address at the February Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation fundraising event for athletes. Days later, in an apparent response to a strong public reaction against the speech cancellation including alumni who threatened to withhold major donations, Ono announced that UBC had reversed that decision expressing "deep regret" for the impact of cancelling on Furlong.[64][65] In response to Furlong's reinstatement as speaker, indigenous professor Daniel Heath Justice quit a UBC committee working on a new sexual assault policy. In a letter to Ono, Heath stated the decision to reinstate Furlong "silenced and erased" abuse allegations against Furlong.[66]

Furlong spoke at the sold out UBC fundraising breakfast which raised several hundred thousand dollars for University athletic programs and donated his speaking fee to the fundraising effort.

In October 2017, UBC became the subject of a human rights complaint over its handling of Furlong's speech.[67]

Defamation lawsuits[edit]

In November 2012, Furlong filed and subsequently dropped defamation suits against the Georgia Straight newspaper and journalist Laura Robinson.[68] In separate default judgements, Georgia Straight and Robinson were awarded legal costs.

Personal life[edit]

John Furlong was schooled at St. Vincent's C.B.S., Glasnevin, Dublin.[69]

In 1970, Furlong married Margaret Cook in Burns Lake British Columbia, Canada.[70] Furlong and Cook are parents to four grown children.[71]

In the late 1970s, Furlong lived with Dayle "Dee" Turner in a three-year common law relationship.[72]

In 1984, Furlong married Gail Robb, fathered one child, and divorced in 2011.[70]

Furlong and Deborah Sharp were married from 2012 until her death in a car accident in Ireland 2013.[73]

In late 2013, Furlong and Renee Smith-Valade became romantic partners.[74] The couple have shared a home since early 2014[75] and married in 2016.[citation needed]

John Furlong raised five children.[11]


Ribbon of the Order of British Columbia
SkyTrain car 308 designated in the Olympic Spirit of John Furlong

Published works[edit]

  • Furlong, John; Mason, Gary (2011). Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country. Douglas & Mcintyre. ISBN 978-1553657941. 


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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Italy Valentino Castellani
President of Organizing Committee for Winter Olympic Games
Succeeded by
Russia Dmitry Chernyshenko