First Person: John Furlong 

Olympic CEO says we’re ahead of the Games

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John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, understands some of the challenges facing Whistler as it prepares to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Last weekend he came to the resort to participate in the resort’s town hall meeting on the Games and the Pique’s Clare Ogilvie had a chance to sit down and chat about some of the issues on the minds of citizens.

Pique: There is a lot of concern around how the resort will handle accommodation for Olympic visitors and accommodate workers needed to host a successful Games. Are you discussing the subject with the municipality?

John Furlong: We are having ongoing daily discussions with the community, with tourism, with everybody about keeping the momentum going and creating this strong sense of awareness that this is a real issue and it has to be solved. I do think when you are just moving along and you don’t see the evidence that (the Games) is just around the corner it is easy to say, ‘Oh, we will look into it next week, we will do it next month.’ (We need to get) everyone’s attention on it. You’ll remember about a year ago the media accommodation was painted as a bit of a crisis and in many ways that was the best thing that could have happened for us because everyone’s attention went to who has to collaborate on this and who has to get involved. I was never of the view that we wouldn’t get it solved. I knew we would. But it required people’s attention.

Pique: According to information from the municipality, 23 per cent of Whistler residents are planning to leave the resort for the Games and in all likelihood will rent out their homes and even the suites that house local workers who rent. What would you say to those people who are thinking of leaving at Games time?

JF: To the last second our job will be to convince everybody to be a player in solving (the accommodation) problem, to be a contributor to the Games. That is, whatever it is they need to do to help us deliver effectively. I think (Mayor Ken Melamed) said it the best… Everyone is watching. What do you want people to see and take from it?

I think people will do what they have done in other countries and they will rise to the occasion and support this as they always have.

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