The Vancouver Olympics and John Furlong’s Sins of Omission

John Furlong, VANOC CEO. Photo by Flickr user United Way of the Lower Mainland used under a Creative Commmons License 2.0


By Laura Robinson
In this comment piece, Canadian author and journalist Laura Robinson takes us further into the discussions of the legacy of the Vancouver Games with a look behind the biography of John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee and into what information on the 2010 Winter Games and his personal background made it to the book and what did not.

Comment: How exactly did VANOC CEO John Furlong manage to emigrate from Dublin, Ireland to Prince George, B.C.—a remote part of Canada in 1974 when he was twenty-four, with a wife and family?

He wrote in his recently released book about the Vancouver Olympics, Patriot Hearts, the he was “recruited” to be the “athletic director” of a high-school in Prince George, B.C., but fails to mention who recruited him. Had he delved into the details of his passage to Canada, not just in his book, but in the decade when he was the front man for the Olympic bid and then the organizing committee, perhaps there would have been less likelihood of him getting the job—and support from Aboriginal organizations across the country.

Sins of Omission
Furlong kept his past a secret. Nowhere in all the bios and hundreds of articles will you find that he was part of an international missionary movement called the “Frontier Apostles” in Northern B.C. They helped the Catholic diocese increase the Catholic student head count by building, and then working at Prince George Catholic High-School—a day and residential school where 80-90% of the students were Aboriginal. Some students came from as far away as Prince Rupert, a 700 km distance. Expansion worked in the church’s favour. Not only would souls be saved, but the federal government paid for every First Nation student attending.

In 1974 Furlong heeded the call of the Oblate Brothers, received the small stipend and room and board afforded the missionaries and, according to students, became the phys ed. teacher and a coach.

“He was a decent guy in those days. A motivational guy who brings out the good in you” says Terry Sam, who competed on the teams Furlong coached. “But he’s sort of too busy for us now. He didn’t have time for us—to talk” he says, adding he would see his former coach in Prince George when Furlong came to see his grandchildren, and with the torch relay, but Furlong would only have passing words with him. He also says he saw Furlong in Vancouver, but by then Furlong would only say “hi” and brush past him.

“His shoes got too big for him” says Sam, who still comes to Vancouver to run the Sun Run—the biggest mass race in Canada, at age 54. “But we made his resume for him. It was coaching us—we were good athletes—that moved him up the ladder and out of the school. Furlong used to tell us we were the best basketball team he ever coached.” (In his book Furlong also says he coached the Irish women’s national team).

Another former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the same thing. “He wouldn’t give more than a sentence when I bumped into him and tried to talk to him about the teams he coached. He avoided talking about those days.”

Furlong wrote in his book that he became the Parks and Recreation Director for Prince George in 1976, but he left out another teaching stint, this time at Immaculate Catholic School in Burns Lake, also under the Prince George Diocese, but in an even more remote part of B.C. Former student Thomas Perry wrote in the student newspaper at Simon Fraser University that he is one of the very few who "was able to overcome the abuse and negative reinforcement that were regularly used as teaching tools in my elementary school. The first school I attended was a Roman Catholic School called the Immaculate School; there was nothing immaculate about a school where every morning I was greeted with strapping from the nuns and priests who ran the school. I could barely speak the English language, which the teachers didn't know, or at least never inquired about, so I continuously got into trouble for speaking my own language."

By 1978 Furlong says he was the regional Parks and Recreation Director for Nanaimo, a city on Vancouver Island, over 800 km south. He was gone, says Sam, but left in a fashion that did not impress his former students. “He left his wife and kids in Prince George to go to Nanaimo. Who does that? I wish I could talk to him and see what’s going on.” To the athletes he once coached—Sam, his brother Howard, and their school friend and teammate Mark Prince--Furlong built his resume by using their athletic performances, then left them and his family for a better position far away. All three say, despite being some of his top athletes, he did not seek them out on his many visits back to Prince George over the ensuing years.

Not having time for former athletes, especially those who committed to excellence—is hardly the advice Furlong gave to the people of Prince George when he was there in December 2010, giving them advice for their bid for the 2015 Canada Games (the first big games Canadian athletes go to before the Olympics or World Championships).

"The No. 1 thing, I think, if I were CEO of these Games, I would want it to matter to everybody who lives here. The most important decision we (VANOC) made was the first one: we committed to a vision. Be sure of what you want to do and stick to it. Anchor it in a set of core values. It has to inspire people to get up and out of bed in the morning,” Furlong told bid organizers.

Visions and values
Furlong talks about “vision” and “values” in Patriot Hearts frequently, but never actually defines the words. Did he bring his strong missionary vision to sport—one based on the conviction that other belief systems are simply wrong because they do not share the values of the missionary? Would Aboriginal organizations and provinces across the country have footed the bill to send dancers to the opening ceremonies and other cultural performers to the Aboriginal pavilion if they’d known Furlong came to Canada to work at a school that took away First Nation languages and replaced them with English, while killing their culture and replacing it with Christianity? Would they have believed him when he told them Aboriginal youth would receive lasting legacies from these Games?

Most of the world does not know that Aboriginal children in Canada were taken from their families by the police, the churches and by “the Indian Agent”—a white person representing the federal government who had legal power over Aboriginal people. Approximately 150,000 children were taken for over 150 years. From 2010 to 2015 Canada will be in the midst of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian residential schools—not unlike the one held in South Africa after apartheid ended. There is evidence of mass graves, abortions done on girls carried out in the basements of schools after they were raped, and a litany of other unspeakable practices. The last residential school closed in 1996.

Sam says he was punished because he chose not to go to mass. “They’d ground you for two weeks—no activities, no sports, no going downtown. You were confined to your dorm. After awhile you did what they said just so you could get out. I didn’t like that at all.”

Margo Sagalon, Terry Sam’s sister, a counselor today, and former student at Prince George Catholic, says she has no reason to believe students suffered sexual abuse there. “Over the years no one has reported sexual abuse to me and I have counseled many, many former students. But there are hundreds of us survivors. We were only allowed to go home for the summer and holidays. We had to pray and do all that crap; go to church. It makes me mad that we’re not even recognized as a residential school. The Department of Indian Affairs paid our tuition directly to the church. We didn’t ask to go there. We lost our language and our culture.”

Canada’s dark shadow
There is a $ 15 billion nation-wide class-action lawsuit against the federal government from former students of “day schools” that Aboriginal people went to that were excluded from the federal government’s Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. If schools were privately built by churches and had day students—as did Prince George Catholic—they were not considered “residential schools” even though most of the students lived there.

The students who attended them were not eligible for the Common Experience Payment others received or extra payments if they suffered abuse. Sagalon collected names of former students who went to Prince George Catholic as part of that class action. All of the schools—residential and day schools—are a dark shadow from Canada‘s past when millions of dollars each year were spent to “kill the Indian in the Indian” through a litany of ways, such as forcing them to be Christians and banning their language.

When Furlong was asked through his publishers, Douglas & McIntyre, about his involvement as a Frontier Apostle and his non-disclosure of his missionary work, the following response was received:

John Furlong worked at Prince George Catholic High School for two years as the athletic director. The students at this school were Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, international and "day" students. It was a fee-paying private school. Furlong had, and continues to have, impeccable relations with aboriginal students, parents and Aboriginal leaders in Prince George, BC and across the country.

Furlong skips over the fact that the vast majority of Native students resided there, something the Prince George Diocese confirmed in March, 2011. Other “day” students boarded at white homes in Prince George, far from their families. The “international” students were mainly the Frontier Apostles’ children. Sam also adds, “He was a gym teacher who coached. We didn’t have an athletic department.” Further to that, Sam says there was no swim team at the school, despite Furlong’s claim in his book that he brought a fast but small team to the regional championships. He mentions that Jim Fowlie, who went on to break world records, did the relay all on his own and won, giving the school (carefully not mentioned once more) the championships. There is no swim team in the 639 pages of school activities and athletic teams from various yearbooks on the Prince George Catholic Facebook website. There was a private swim club in Prince George that did have a roster of good athletes, including Fowlie.

Opening Ceremonies
Furlong plays with the facts all the way through Patriot Hearts. For instance, he outlines how he and Australian opening ceremonies producer David Atkins wanted “to give the international world a real insight into Canada’s view of the Aboriginal community” by having them greet the athletes as they entered the stadium. “We would ask these communities to send us their best and their brightest, their future leaders….We would dress them in modernized version of their tribal regalia to create the colour and pageantry for which we were striving.”

Furlong wrote they wouldn’t tell the youth they would be in the opening ceremonies until “we had them locked in a hall in Squamish” but added that VANOC was running out of cash. When he met with then Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, the elected head of Native people across Canada, to “seek his blessing” he told Fontaine, “We may even need a little help because financially it’s extremely difficult to do.” Furlong reports that Fontaine was extremely supportive and writes, “Sweet mother of mercy…. I quickly rolled up my papers and left to tell David Atkins we had lift-off.”

That’s the official story. When Furlong was again asked to comment in more detail about the difference between what he wrote and what history tells us, Douglas & McIntyre’s publicity dept wrote the following email:

John Furlong responded to your questions a few weeks ago. He doesn't have anything further to say.

Absolute rights in perpetuity
With or without Furlong’s input, let’s look at reality. Young people found the application to the Olympic Indigenous Youth Gathering on-line. They did not have to go through Aboriginal leaders because they had to sign a multi-page contract with VANOC, agreeing to be unpaid “volunteers”; they had to send VANOC photos of themselves, but only in regalia—this was about creating a romanticized notion of what Indians look like—not as Furlong wrote, about how Canadians view Aboriginal people. If Aboriginal leaders had read the contract, chances are they would not have allowed the youth to sign it.

Generally Aboriginal people are invisible to Canadians. Most could not tell you that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission even exists, despite its five year mandate.

VANOC gave the young people strict instructions on how they wanted the regalia changed or simply disallowed it. The dancers performed their traditional dances for Atkins, but he gave them new dances that were to look as though they were traditional. The young people could not criticize VANOC, the IOC, the “Olympic Family” or any other organizations attached to the Olympics; and had to give VANOC and the IOC absolute rights to their images, creative property and intellectual property in perpetuity.

If they created a painting, dance, or a piece of music during the “Youth Gathering”—which turned out to mainly be rehearsals for the opening ceremonies, VANOC and the IOC owned it. Aboriginal people had no right to their own art. If they did or said anything VANOC deemed to be un-Olympic, VANOC could ship them home.

The “hall” Furlong had the 350 young people locked away in was a remote camp, 20 minutes outside of Squamish (between Vancouver and Whistler) where they lived crowded into rough cabins. Just days into the Games the present Assembly of First Nations Chief, Shawn Atleo, said he had not known about the above terms, and was disturbed that Aboriginal creations were now owned by the IOC and VANOC. “If Canada had signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples, I think things would have turned out differently.” At that time only Canada and the U.S. had not signed the declaration. Canada now is a signatory.

“Never in our wildest dreams…”
Patriot Hearts skips all of these truths, and many others too lengthy to go into here. But Furlong has made his way up the sport administration food chain. His  website, has its own set of arms and gives many testimonials about his ability to move a crowd. Furlong charges $20,000.00 CAN per keynote address. That amount did not seem too high for  the International Council of Shopping Centres, the B.C. Pharmacists Association, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and  the Canadian Construction Association, who conveniently had their conference in Hawaii—far away from Canadian journalists who question an email he sent eleven months before the Olympics showing he had prior knowledge about the possible dangers of the fatal Olympic luge track.

Furlong wrote to VANOC staff  “[I]mbedded [sic] in this note (cryptic as it may be) is a warning that the track is in their view too fast and someone could get badly hurt. An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing…. I’m not sure where the exit sign or way out is on this. Our legal guys should review at least.”

Yet when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died, Furlong is quoted as saying, “It’s not something I prepared for, or ever thought I would have to be prepared for.” In Patriot Hearts, which came out before the above email was public, Furlong wrote, "Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine the death of an athlete on Opening Day.”

To this day, no one is allowed to use the men’s starting gate on the luge track.  The track is located in Whistler, 150 km north of Vancouver. But Furlong appears to have moved on from the scandal surrounding it. He has been named as the Chair of Whistler-Blackcomb’s Corporate Governance Committee. Whistler-Blackcomb is the massive resort/ski area located at Whistler. In November, VANOC paid them $32.1 million in “make whole” compensation, after the resort argued that the Olympics had hurt business.

Most recently he has also been made a director of Rocky Mountain Railtours, the luxury rail company whose train makes the run to Whistler. While environmentalists argued for this rail line to be a dedicated transportation route during the Games, VANOC chose a widened highway and vehicles instead. Rail use was restricted to Rocky Mountain Tours who rented out the train to politicians who met with corporate leaders on their way to Whistler.

John Furlong certainly has come a long way since his first missionary position.

  • pdub lg, 01.10.2011 11:03:

    Here's one to dispel your belief and others that indicate VANOC indeed contracted the designer of the luge track...

    From 2004, Terry Wright, Executive VP, VANOC speaking to a small business gathering in Vancouver.

    "An example Wright used referenced hiring foreign expertise to design the luge track. The German designer they picked tabled a design that created G forces of 6.2 on two of the corners. Experience tells us that forces above 4.5 puts extreme pressure on the ice and breaks it down. According to Wright the human body can handle 6.2, but the ice can't, especially after repeated runs. "

    It seems Brent likes to use PR media to determine his "facts".
  • pdub lg, 01.10.2011 11:02:
    Brent's attempt to shine a light on Furlong's bio actually reinforces the facts in the original article.

    Not sure if Brent had any relations with Furlong but I have. He is quick to anger especially when he is challenged with the facts. In fact, on a talk show in Vancouver in 2003 when Furlong was caught being disingenuous with his "facts" and was handed documents indicating that what he had just said was false, he hurled the papers back at his opponent.

    Money talks and the so called aboriginal leaders Brent mentions in his comment received millions and have all become personal owners of companies that were greased by Vanoc money.

    I wonder how many permanent jobs aboriginals have from their involvement in the 2010 Games?

    If it is anything like the promises made to the aboriginal people in Whistler area when it was being developed then probably as many as one can count on two hands.

    Brent's comments do nothing to counter the facts included in the original article. I can see why someone would see his comments being nothing more than PR or someone perhaps on the receiving end of Furlong's generous bonus handouts to his overpriced Vanoc staff when Vanoc lost money on its operations. Rather than provide amateur sports with "surpluses" as promised Furlong paid out $30 million in bonuses to his pampered staff.

    His is nothing more than an expediter and shoe shine boy for the wealthy. A country club manager who now seems to think he is an authority on riots. Paid $77,000 for two months worth that attempted absolve the VPD and the City of Vancouver for its involvement in the Stanley Cup riots.

    If Christy Clark flubs her attempt to be elected by the people of BC as premier then perhaps Mr. Furlong can rise to his destiny and be Premier of BC.

    Someone highly paid for his patriotism is hardly a patriot.

    I leave it to Samuel Johnson to cap off my comments:

    "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
  • pdub lg, 01.10.2011 11:02:
    Brent, using the BC Coroner's Office report as a basis for absolving Furlong, VANOC, IOC and the Luge Federation is a bit disingenuous in itself.

    The fact that almost all the male athletes using the luge track were experiencing speeds greater than they had ever had before should be grounds to question the coroner's report.

    The fact that the world record was smashed a year earlier on the same track should have been grounds to review just what had been designed and caused officials in charge to determine just what dangers could occur given the rapid rise in travel speeds down the track.

    The record that stood for years was smashed by almost 15%. Tell me what speed oriented olympic sport, summer of winter, that sees its records smashed by such a margin?

    Nice try though. One has to wonder what hush money was offered to the parents of the athlete who died on the luge track. Was Furlong's trek to Nodar's home town more about keeping the story from growing and offering dollars to a poor family and community? Too bad lawyers didn't meet up with Nodar's parents before the IOC contingent did.
  • Brent ., 22.05.2011 08:05:
    Thank you for responding to my comments Laura. I am very flattered that you feel that I write like a Public Relations professional, I can assure you I am not but maybe in this comment, I won’t do a spell check to ensure everyone knows I’m not some spin doctor. I can also assure you I have no link to Twenty-Ten Group so we can now dismiss that as a motivating factor in my comments.

    Let me continue to point out your flawed journalism or certainly things that put the credibility of your comments in question. To quote you “The students were also adamant he was not an "athletic director." As someone who has had decades of experience with Canadian high-schools, I have never heard that term used either. We have "phys ed heads."

    I find this comment almost laughable. Here’s why. First, I went to school in the seventies and eighties and I am quite sure I can not remember most of my teachers names, let alone what their correct job titles were. So really how much do your rely on the memories of students from decades ago? Secondly, seriously you have never heard the term “athletic director”? After reading your comments I entered the term in google and what did I find in the first page of google search results – a reference to one Mr. Coutts (Athletic Director) at Kitsilano Seconary school, and Athletic Director at Earl Marriott Secondary, in Surrey BC. Then I found about thirty other Athletic Director positions listed. Hum I guess for “someone who has had decades of experience with Canadian high-schools” maybe you are correct its not a term that is used except in the Vancouver School Board, the Surrey School District, the Prince George School board, Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, which is just what I found reference to in 2.5 minutes of searching? Oh and if you had taken the time to research the term yourself you would have found the term Athletic Director to be synonymous with the term “gym teacher”.

    Another beef I have with your comments is your reference to the abuse of the aboriginals used in the opening ceremonies (the term “beef” is used purposely to ensure I am not still considered a PR Professional with the Twenty-Ten Group). Your comments “I am afraid Mr. Furlong's scheme about "locking" First Nation youth in "a hall in Squamish" so they couldn't reveal that they would be in the opening ceremonies, is dangerously close to the way in which First Nation children were locked away in residential schools for 150 years. Vanoc chose not to pay the First Nation dancers,…” is a pathetic attempt to relate two unrelatable ) events. (apparently MS word says this is not a word so “sic” meIt is also insulting that you would try and link the tragic events of the past with the Catholic schools in Canada with the secrecy of the opening ceremonies. Do you not know one non-aboriginal person that performed in the opening ceremonies? I do, a friend of mine’s daughter performed in the opening ceremonies and as shocking as this sounds; she wasn’t paid to perform and she was bound to secrecy!!!! Why were children, adults, dancers and First Nations people not paid? Because they all wanted to be a part of the once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of one of the most exciting events of our time. Does my friend feel that her daughter was exploited – no! She is honored that she was chosen out of thousands of other children and adults that auditioned to “Volunteer” for the event. No one was exploited, everyone who was able to perform in the event had to live under the same secrecy and terms of involvement and all were surely thrilled to have given their time and talents to the event.

    Furthermore, I think you should ask the the chiefs and councils of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations how they felt about John Furlong. The chiefs and council of these aboriginal tribes were treated the same as the more respected and powerful leaders in the world. They got the exact same treatment as world leaders, dignitaries, royalty and our own Prime Minister and Governor General. While you are at it, ask those chiefs if they felt that the First Nations People in Canada are better off or worse off after the Olympics, I would bet they would unanimously say the former is true!
    Oh one other thing that you said that is untrue. You said “Vanoc and the IOC made huge profits on the opening ceremonies…” Let me set the record straight VANOC is/was a not-for-profit organization, incorporated under the Not-For-Profit Corporations Act. Therefore VANOC is not allowed to make any profits.
    Seriously I could go on and on! But what a waste of my time that would be. If you want to be perceived as a serious journalist – research more than just the slant you want to put on a story and give respect to the individual your are attacking. You can at least be seen as raising issues if you have valid and relevant facts. Unfortunately I think you have spent too much time in all the wrong places for your comments. And just to make it perfectly clear. I am not in the Public Relations business and the only “slant” I have is an ability to think critically and with some admiration for what the Olympics brought to the city I was born and raised in!
    Brent (not a PR guy nor do I have anything to do with The Twenty Twelve Group)
  • Laura Robinson, 16.05.2011 08:01:
    Thank you for responding Brent. Please be assured this article is no joke. A tip, originating in Vanoc, came to me just before the 2010 Olympics that John Furlong's first job in Canada was at a residential school for First Nation youth. I actually didn't believe it, but the source assured me it was correct.
    When Mr. Furlong's book came out and he twice conveniently skipped the name of the school he first taught at, I became suspicious. It was not difficult to find that he worked at Prince George Catholic High-School and at Immaculate School in Burns Lake as a Frontier Apostle missionary.
    His former students said he returned to Prince George often as he came to visit his children. This was well before he was head of the Bidco or Vanoc. Later he would return to visit his grandchildren. It was at these times he started to avoid talking about his role as coach at the school; a practice they say he continued during the build-up to the Olympics.
    The students were also adamant he was not an "athletic director." As someone who has had decades of experience with Canadian high-schools, I have never heard that term used either. We have "phys ed heads." The students were also adamant the school did not have the swim team Mr. Furlong refers to his book. I can find no evidence of the swim team either.
    It was these omissions and the differing versions of what he did during his first years in Canada along with many much bigger discrepancies throughout his book I sought to have clarified when I contacted him via his publisher in March. Beyond saying he was the athletic director at Prince George Catholic High-School, Mr. Furlong refused to answer any questions.
    On April 29 at the Canadian Newspaper Association conference, I politely asked him if I could ask him a few questions before he spoke and before delegates were in the room. He agreed.
    As soon as I mentioned that I had contacted him earlier about his involvement as a Frontier Apostle, he interrupted and yelled, "Stop it! Stop it!" He walked away and said, "I'm not getting into that."
    If he has such strong Catholic ideals and was so committed to teaching, why not say so in his book? Why leave this whole chapter of his life out? Why has he left it out of every interview he has ever given? In a survey of interviews other journalists did with him, I found a wide variety of explanations he used to describe what he did in northern B.C. In none did he admit he was a Frontier Apostle missionary, converting First Nation youth to Catholicism.
    If Mr. Furlong is such a good Catholic, why did he interrupt and scream at a journalist before she could ask a reasonable question about the contents of his book? Mr. Furlong's books were stacked six to a table--for all who came to hear him speak at the Canadian Newspaper Association conference. The contents of them should be fair game. But not only did Mr. Furlong scream at me, he told the newspaper association he would not take a Q&A afterwards.
    In terms of the tragedy on the luge track, well Mr. Furlong along with other decision-makers, will have to answer to their own conscience. No PR spin will change what they didn't do. I will leave it at that.
    Like Vanoc's PR team at the Olympics, Mr. Furlong likes just one version of "the truth" out there, and if you question it, you do so at your own risk. His book is full of rants against people who simply did not agree with him. He becomes unstuck in his book because there was so much criticism of the lack of French in the opening ceremonies. Yes, and Canadians did make great fun of his French because we honestly could not believe how awful it was. When I heard him I thought he was trying to make a very unfunny joke at the closing ceremonies.
    It is as if Mr. Furlong transferred his religious zeal over to sport, and like a good missionary, believes it is others who need to see the light, but never him.
    I am afraid Mr. Furlong's scheme about "locking" First Nation youth in "a hall in Squamish" so they couldn't reveal that they would be in the opening ceremonies, is dangerously close to the way in which First Nation children were locked away in residential schools for 150 years. Vanoc chose not to pay the First Nation dancers, to put them up in sub-standard, crowded and remote cabins, and threatened them with expulsion if they said anything they deemed to be anti-Olympic. The dancers were exploited: Vanoc and the IOC made huge profits on the opening ceremonies and did not share any of it with the First Nation youth who danced so beautifully. First Nation people are the poorest of the poor in Canada. The youth have a far greater chance of being incarcerated, having violent crime committed against them, and of dying than do non-Native Canadians. To exploit and not pay these young people is reprehensible.

    Mr. Furlong has now joined with his Vanoc PR team to form Twenty-Ten Group--a sports marketing firm that also sponsored his talk to the newspaper association. Unfortunately he chose to use the occasion to be beyond rude to this journalist--an indication, to me, of his real feelings towards real journalism.

    Finally, Brent, you seem to know a lot of inside information about Mr. Furlong and you write just like the person who does the Twenty-Ten Group's media releases.
  • Brent ., 06.05.2011 11:56:
    What a Joke this article is! The comment piece, by Laura Robinson reads like a cheap political attack advertisement and seems to be trying too hard to make a negative story from anything that could be dug up in John Furlong's past and then spun as negative.

    First, as a young 24 year old with strong ideals about teaching, sport and the catholic faith is it not reasonable that Mr. Furlong would be want to come and be involved with a private catholic school where he felt he could make a difference? Even his students talked about him in a positive light. "He was a decent guy in those days. A motivational guy who brings out the good in you" that sounds like an endorsement to me. As for the "he doesn't have time for me anymore". No doubt he didn't during the games and on the brief stop he had on the Olympic torch relay. He was, during that time, a major executive with enormous time pressures and commitments almost everyday of the year. I'm sure people can forgive him for the lack of quality time spent with students he had 35 years ago. As wonderful as his students likely are I can appreciate he was significantly over scheduled for even the most important people in his lives to get quality time with him (take a look at what happened to his family during that time).

    Linking the “nation-wide class-action lawsuit against the federal government from former students of “day schools” to Mr. Furlong is pathetic. He was an early 20’s young teacher trying to make a difference. He did not start the school, nor administer it and to link him in such a negative light to that tragedy of Canada’s aboriginal past is almost, in my opinion, defamation. Maybe his experiences at that school teaching and coaching aboriginals helped define his respect and admiration for our aboriginal people, but of course you wouldn’t want to explore that possibility if you want to write a negative story.

    As for the tragedy of Nodar Kumaritashvili, I am sure that everyone involved in the Olympic sliding centre wish they could go back in time, but I am also sure that none of them including Mr. Furlong would have ever in their wildest dreams expected the fastest track in the world to lead to such a tragedy. Let us remember, The International Luge Federation stated that Kumaritashvili's death "was not caused by an unsafe track". In a British Columbia coroner's office report dated September 16, 2010, the coroner ruled Kumaritashvili's death an accident brought on by a "convergence of several factors", including the high speed of the track, its technical difficulty and the athlete's relative unfamiliarity with the track. He wrote that during Kumaritashvili's training runs, it was reasonable to assume that "Mr. Kumaritashvili was sliding faster than ever before in his life, and was attempting to go even faster, while simultaneously struggling to learn the intricacies of the track and the dynamics it created". The coroner accepted that luging would always carry an element of risk and that best practices known at the time had been followed in the construction of the Whistler track. It was a tragic accident and Mr. Furlong cannot be held culpable for it.

    So in my opinion journalist Laura Robinson might want to consider applying for a Conservative Party writer – then she will hone her skills further in writing negative attack ads!

* required field

What is three plus seven?

Guidelines for posting
Play the Game promotes an open debate on sport and sports politics and we strongly encourage everyone to participate in the discussions on But please follow these simple guidelines when you write a post:

  1. Please be respectful - even if you disagree strongly with certain viewpoints. Slanderous or profane remarks will not be posted.
  2. Please keep to the subject. Spam or solicitations of any kind will not be posted.

Use of cookies

The website uses cookies to provide a user-friendly and relevant website. Cookies provide information about how the website is being used or support special functions such as Twitter feeds. 

By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies. You can find out more about our use of cookies and personal data in our privacy policy.