John Furlong was the surprise choice as head of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee who came from nowhere and managed to pull off with aplomb a $1.9bn event that gripped the world.
And the Vanouver Sun’s editorial board sat the Tipperary man down to try and instill some of his organizational know how to the board. Yet there were no easy answers.
The three qualities of Furlong that shone out to others, and probably led to his appointment to the top job at the winter Olympics post were his reportedly obsessive work ethic, his burning drive to make something of himself, his ability to inspire others, and his common touch.
The Irishman, from a tiny town in Tipperary, also saw sports, throughout his life, as the ultimate metaphor for success, for making something out of yourself, and for suceeding.
The sixty year old Irishman comes from a humble family of six that grew up in a tiny rural town in County Tipperary.
His first inspiration came in 1964 when he saw American long-distance runner Billy Mills emerge from obscurity to pull off the race of his generation, winning the 10,000 metre race at the Tokyo Word Games.
“Anything is possible” was the thought that came to Furlong when he watched the Soux Indian runner stride his way to a surprise victory.
He moved to Canada in his early 20s and took on several sports, even once competing in a squash tournament with his injured ankled strapped up.
He also considers himself to have the gift of the gab, taking a long time to answer every question posed to him and is noted for his ability to inspire others with his speech.
Another of Furlong’s more endearing qualities is his ability to ignore any criticism of himself, likening the process to blocking out white noise.
"You either believe or you don't believe," he says. The CEO’s work ethic came to the fore again while in Canada when he practically worked himself to a collapse before taking some time out to recuperate.
He also believes that one of the most important qualities for a manager or head of an organization to develop is to spend long hours personally with the staff to develop a person relationship of confidence and trust with the staff so that one appears more comrade than chief.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”