John Furlong (sports administrator)

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John Furlong
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 65)
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 (2014)
Residence Vancouver
Occupation Sports administrator
Religion Roman Catholic

John Furlong, OC,[2] OBC[3] (born October 12, 1950)[4] is a Canadian sports administrator. He is the executive chair of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He was the president and CEO of VANOC which oversaw the preparation and execution of the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics Games. Prior to his appointment as the CEO of VANOC, he chaired the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation (2001–2004), president of Arbutus Club, a members-only family club, member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, chair of the BC Summer Games and BC Winter Games, and Sport B.C.[3]

Arrival in Canada[edit]

While Furlong's biographical memoir (Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country) claims he and his family came to Canada from Ireland in 1974,[5][6] it is now established that he lived in Burns Lake, British Columbia in 1969 as a Frontier Apostle. During his time in Burns Lake he married Margaret Cook, a kindergarten teacher at Immaculata Catholic School. In June 1970 Furlong and Cook moved from Burns Lake to Prince George, British Columbia where their first child was born.[7][8][9]

Athletic background[edit]

Furlong participated in international level basketball, European handball, and squash. He became Canadian Squash Champion in 1986. He was schooled at St. Vincent's C.B.S., Glasnevin, Dublin.[10]

Olympic and Paralympic Games[edit]

In the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Games, Furlong chaired the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation (2001–2004). After becoming president and CEO of the Organizing Committee, he was responsible for preparing and marketing the events. Hours before the formal opening of the Olympic Games, Furlong had to begin managing the crisis regarding the controversial death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. Furlong had been involved in directing improvements to the luge track construction.[11][12][13]


In the aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, Furlong was appointed, along with Douglas Keefe, to independently examine the incident and to offer recommendations. The report, The Night the City Became a Stadium: Independent Review of 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Playoffs Riot, was published on September 1, 2011.[14]

On April 11, 2012, Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced the hiring of Furlong as executive chair of the club, a position he currently holds.[15]

Abuse allegations[edit]

Georgia Straight newspaper[edit]

On September 26, 2012, the Georgia Straight newspaper published an article by journalist Laura Robinson, reporting that that Furlong physically and mentally abused children during his time as a physical education teacher at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake in the late 1960s.[16] The article claimed support from over 45 statements, including eight sworn affidavits, from former students.[16] Furlong held a press conference and released a written statement denying the article's abuse allegations.[17]

Additional allegations[edit]

In 2013 civil actions, three former students alleged that Furlong abused them sexually, physically, and verbally and that school officials, the diocese, and archdiocese did nothing to intervene.[18][19]

Robinson added to the allegations in her response to Furlong's defamation action. A woman, understood to be a former wife, gave a statement alleging forced sex, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse during their marriage. Robinson also cited statements that reveal that Furlong had physically and emotionally abused another former wife.[20]

Assembly of First Nations[edit]

At the 37th Annual General Assembly in July 2016, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) passed a resolution to press the federal government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to launch a formal inquiry into multiple allegations that John Furlong abused First Nations students at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake.[21][22]

Legal problems[edit]

Abandoned legal actions[edit]

In November 2012, Furlong filed and eventually dropped defamation suits against the Georgia Straight newspaper and Laura Robinson.[23] Georgia Straight and Robinson were awarded legal costs.[24] Robinson's article remains live and unaltered on the Georgia Straight newspaper's website.[25]

In July 2013, two former students filed civil lawsuits in British Columbia Supreme Court against Furlong, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Roman Catholic Prince George Diocese, and the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George. A third former student filed suit in September on similar grounds.[19]

Jason Gratl, the Vancouver lawyer who had represented all three accusers, withdrew his services before the collapse of two cases.[26][27] The final complaint was withdrawn.[28]

Robinson versus Furlong[edit]

On January 28, 2014, Robinson filed a notice of claim for defamation against Furlong and TwentyTen Group in BC Supreme Court.[29] The trial took place in June 2015. In her September 2015 decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge dismissed Robinson's defamation claim citing Furlong's qualified privilege to make statements "that might otherwise meet the legal definition of defamation."[30]

That decision has come under scrutiny by Furlong's accusers who were excluded from the trial and by some members of the media, who felt the judge disregarded a journalist's right to report on issues of public interest.[31] Furlong's accusers filed a complaint January 8, 2016 with the Canadian Judicial Council identifying examples of incorrect information in the written decision.[32][33]

Personal life[edit]

In 1970, Furlong married Margaret Cook, a teacher at Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake. Their first child was born in Prince George.[34] Furlong and Cook are parents to four grown children.[35]

Furlong lived with Dayle "Dee" Turner in a three-year common law marriage from the late 1970s. Turner has claimed Furlong physically and sexually abused her.[36]

Furlong and third wife, Gail Robb, married in 1984, had one child, and divorced in 2011.[37]

Furlong and Deborah Sharp were married from 2012 until her death in 2013.[38]

In late 2013 Furlong and former employee Renee Smith-Valade became romantic partners.[39] Furlong and Smith-Valade have shared a home in Vancouver since early 2014.[40]


Furlong recounts his experience leading up to and throughout the Games in his book, Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country. Co-authored by Globe and Mail journalist Gary Mason, this autobiography describes how he led the Games through difficulties such as the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, a global recession, and the washed out snow at Cypress Bowl.

Furlong claims in Patriot Hearts that he arrived to Canada in 1974. No mention is made of his time in Burns Lake (1969–70) where he met his first wife[41] and is alleged to have abused First Nations students.[42] His book also excludes his time in Prince George (1970–72) where his first child was born. Furlong has stated that his time in Burns Lake was "fairly brief and fairly uneventful."[43]

In response to the Georgia Straight revelations, Gary Mason, Furlong's Patriot Hearts co-author stated, "I have been asked if John Furlong ever mentioned working in Burns Lake for several years before 1974 during the course of our interviews for Patriot Hearts. I can say he did not. As for the rest of the allegations in a Georgia Straight article about John, I have no knowledge and can't speak to them. Patriot Hearts was John Furlong's Olympic memoir. Any questions about it arising from the article written by Laura Robinson are best directed to John."[44]


Ribbon of the Order of British Columbia
Skytrain Mk II 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. 


  1. ^ CBC Sports (February 21, 2004). "Furlong chosen CEO of Vancouver 2010". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Order of Canada Citation". May 6, 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d orderbceditor (January 15, 2009). "Order of BC Citation". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  4. ^ "CANOE - Canadian Online Explorer - Canada's news, sports, entertainment, finance and lifestyle site". Retrieved November 14, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Patriot Hearts - D&M Publishers". February 12, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country Archived November 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake | Vancouver, Canada". September 27, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012. 
  8. ^ "CBC News, Former Vancouver Olympic CEO denies abuse allegations". September 27, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  9. ^ "B.C. First Nation backs RCMP investigation of Furlong - British Columbia - CBC News". September 28, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012. 
  10. ^ Selley, Chris (October 2, 2012). "Chris Selley on the John Furlong affair: How to ruin a reputation". The National Post. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  11. ^ Cole, Cam (February 12, 2015). "Five years on, Vancouver Games' tragedy still haunts Olympic organizer". The Financial Post. Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  12. ^ Mackin, Bob (January 10, 2014). "Luge tragedy remains the darkest legacy of 2010". Metro News. Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Excerpts from 'Patriot Hearts' by John Furlong". National Post. February 8, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Vancouver Riot Review". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  15. ^ "John Furlong named executive chair of Whitecaps FC". April 12, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  17. ^ "Furlong Goes on Offensive". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  18. ^ "John Furlong's former students file lawsuit against ex-VANOC CEO". July 24, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "John Furlong, former VANOC CEO, faces 3rd sex abuse lawsuit - British Columbia - CBC News". Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  20. ^ Keller, James (2013-01-22). "Reporter adds to allegations against ex-Olympics head John Furlong". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  21. ^ "Assembly of First Nations Votes to Press Government for New John Furlong Investigation - CANADALAND". 2016-07-14. Retrieved 2016-07-15. 
  22. ^ 2016, Jenny Uechi in News | July 18th (2016-07-18). "First Nations motion calling for federal probe puts Furlong on defensive". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-07-19. 
  23. ^ "John Furlong Sex Abuse Claim Questioned After Court Documents Revealed". December 30, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Furlong drops defamation suit, but journalist will pursue counterclaim". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  25. ^ "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  26. ^ "John Furlong Lawsuit Dropped, Accuser Fails To Appear in Court". The Huffington Post. 
  27. ^ "John Furlong lawsuit dropped after complainant fails to appear in court". March 31, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Lawsuits against former Vancouver Olympic CEO Furlong in doubt". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  29. ^ "Reporter sues John Furlong for defamation in latest legal back-and-forth". CTVNews. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  30. ^ "John Furlong wins court battle against journalist". Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  31. ^ "COLOUR BLIND: The Truth you still don't know about Reconciliation". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  32. ^ "Letter to Canadian Judicial Council regarding Justice Wedge's dismissal of Furlong case". Scribd. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  33. ^ "Former Furlong students file complaint against B.C. Supreme Court judge". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  34. ^ "Vancouver Olympics CEO 'categorically' denies abuse allegations". Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  35. ^ "Furlong's children, former wives offer support". British Columbia. Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  36. ^ "John Furlong breaks his silence -". Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  37. ^ "Vancouver Olympics CEO 'categorically' denies abuse allegations". Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  38. ^ "Ex-Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong's wife killed in Ireland car accident". National Post. Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  39. ^ "John Furlong’s girlfriend testifies in his defence on eighth day of defamation trial". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  40. ^ "Two years later, Furlong legal battle quietly drags on". Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  41. ^ "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  42. ^ Keller, James (2013-01-22). "Reporter adds to allegations against ex-Olympics head John Furlong". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  43. ^ "'I Categorically Deny' Abuse Allegations". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  44. ^ Mackin, Bob (2012-09-27). "Furlong's co-author Mason says he was told nothing about Burns Lake | The Hook". The Tyee. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  45. ^ "Governor General announces 74 new appointments to the Order of Canada". June 30, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  46. ^ COS Admin (January 15, 2009). "2010 Recipient: John Furlong – Vancouver". Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  47. ^ John Huet (March 1, 2010). "Thank You And Merci Vancouver!". IOC. Retrieved December 19, 2011. 
  48. ^ "The Paralympic Order". Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  49. ^ "UBC honorary degree citation". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  50. ^ BCIT Convocation 2010 Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  51. ^ JIBC News Release Archived December 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  52. ^ a b Nick Rockel. "John Furlong welcomed the world to Vancouver". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  53. ^ "Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2010 Citation". November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  54. ^ "BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum Citation". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  55. ^ "Translink news release, John Furlong, Olympic Spirit honoured on SkyTrain car". September 4, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 

External links[edit]

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