Furlong issues challenge to put on best Games ever 

2010 Olympic Games CEO urges Whistler to help get the Games to the finish line

Whistler is integral to the plans to host the best Winter Olympic Games ever.

And let there be no mistake, said John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games: The plan is for the 2010 Games to be the best.

"Whistler is 50 per cent plus of the whole plan," Furlong told over 200 people who came to hear him speak at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week.

"You have a critical role to play in not just the Games and the Paralympics but in sending the message that needs to be sent about how good we can be."

Reaching for perfection will come out of sharing a vision of the Games which puts the athlete front and centre and embraces Olympic ideals, said Furlong.

"The vision that must drive this is the vision that this must be about the Games and about sport and about athletes," he said.

"If we deliver that in a spectacular way… then the world will see perfection and from perfection they will say Canadians are good, Canadians know what they are doing and can be trusted. Working with Canadians is worth the effort."

He also told the audience that the organizing committee is in a crucial phase at the moment. Key team leaders are being sought and planning is at a fever pitch.

"This year, 2004, is a critical year for us," he said.

"It is the year we have to do the best planning that we have ever done. We have to button the project down, get key decisions made, and we have to start getting ready for the start of construction.

"We have said to the world that we will begin construction in the summer of 2005 and that is going to be the first major milestone upon which we are judged and we have to meet that deadline."

Two major venues for the Games will be built in Whistler, the $102 million Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley and the $55 million Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain.

Preliminary work is under way at both locations.

All of the alpine and Nordic skiing events will be hosted in Whistler, which will also host the Paralympic Games.

To be the best organizers are looking to other Games to learn from them said Furlong.

It’s generally held that Lillehammer, Norway has hosted the best Winter Games to date. Salt Lake’s 2002 Games were applauded for their precision.

Vancouver hopes to take the pride so visible in Lillehammer and the flawless execution of Salt Lake and imitate them, then add some West Coast flavour and make the Games our own.

But reaching for the gold ring is not without its pressures said Furlong.

"Is it possible that we could steal the mantle for being the best that has ever been?" he pondered.

"The expectations are very high and people believe that we have it in us to do something very extraordinary not just for our communities, the province and country, but for the world.

"People today are talking about re-writing how to do this around the way it gets done here, so the demands and expectations are going to be very high."

Furlong also reiterated his pledge to use the Games as a way to give every child in Canada a chance to take part in organized sport.

"…Any child can be great, to enjoy the thrill of sports, to learn those values, to learn about honour and respect and decency and all those things that we want our kids to know. If every child could play… then we would really have accomplished something.

"While we build this project, while we put these Games on we can impact a dramatic change in this country about the value of sport and we should do it.

"And we should not relent and we should accept nothing less than the best we can do to give every child in this country a chance to say that they know what it is like to play sports.

"If we do that and that becomes one of the ultimate legacies of the Games then we have surely served our communities and our families and our country with distinction.

"(Whistler) helped us build a phenomenal Olympic plan, you helped us get to first place. We now need you to help us get to the finish line and be the best Games that has ever been."

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