John Furlong: VANOC CEO “The Vision That Changed a Nation” #MRIA


Welcome to the virtual MRIA 2011 annual conference! This post reflects my personal musings and interpretations of this presentation. It was written during the presentation and posted minutes afterward. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.


Opening Keynote Speaker: John Furlong, VANOC CEO, “The Vision That Changed a Nation”

  • What was the vision for the Vancouver olympics? It needed to be new,  different, special: About people, about the country, something Canadians could do together. We need to matter to everyone, need to make this about this people in our country. Take the Olympic spirit to the front door of every home in the country. The hiring committee loved the vision but didn’t think John could pull it off. (I’m pretty sure he did.)
  • They tested absolutely everything: uniforms, mittens, music, tagline, colours. (I still don’t have the mittens!) The research team told them things they didn’t want to hear but they knew they had to hear it.
  • Research said that the mountain would have snow as it has for the last 100 years. Hm… wait… no…. it didn’t. But hey, anyone can do the winter Olympics with snow. Try doing it without! They trucked in snow from 110 km away in temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius because the snow they did have was the wrong kind of snow. What the?!
  • Do what’s right, every time, no matter what, whether in front or behind of a camera. Value and principles can cost a lot of money but it’s worth it. Never quit on your core set of values. Stick to your vision.
  • Toughest decision on opening day: What tie to wear. And then the horrible accident occurred. The death of the luger was like hearing that his own son had been killed. Canada won its first medal and a grim funeral was underway.
  • Stand up and lead your team now. John traveled to every venue, tried to thank every volunteer, gave them permission to come out of a slump and give their best.  Do people care if the bus is on time, the tech is perfect? People care about the athletes, the people. That brought the goal of “Own the Podium
  • We must execute the gold winning game to be the winningest country. The new Canadian “wave “occurred when everyone, even the prime minister, slapped their hands to their face when the gold medal hockey game tied up. This is when the vision had been realized – every Canadian was on the ice with that team. This was bigger than hockey. This was the hopes and dreams of the country.
  • What was the real lesson? Have a vision, believe in something, have something that fills your life up and makes you want to be the best you can be.
  • Another lesson: At the darkest moments, have the courage to get up and put everything on the line. Risk failure in order to be great.
  • Final lesson: Never surrender your integrity to anyone for any reason. Try to do good things every single day. Everyone makes mistakes, just don’t repeat them.

Vancouver 2010: John Furlong, VANOC CEO, Global TV Interview

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