John Furlong has taken the lessons of playing fields in Tipperary and applied them to the management of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
His opening remarks at the Olympics represented the highlight of his life. It was the first time an Irish accent was heard at an opening ceremony since Lord Killanin, the former International Olympic Committee chairman in the 1970s.
He is CEO of VANOC, the organizing committee which has brought all the Games venues in on budget and a year in advance.
“I’ve tried to take the essence of sports – fair play, integrity and teamwork – and incorporate them in the culture of this organization.” The father of five and grandfather of six caught the Olympic bug during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
He played for Ireland’s national basketball and handball teams and jokes that to make the Irish Olympic team “All you needed was a letter from your grandmother.”
When he came to Canada 30 years ago, the customs officer challenged him to make the country better.
He began to do that almost immediately, serving on the Canadian Olympic Committee, then headed the group which won the 2010 Games, and now leads the body delivering the Olympics to the world.
He hopes when the last person in the world turns off their TV at the end of the Games, they say, “Wow, Canada did a fabulous job.”
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”