Blogs

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Furlong's co-author Mason says he was told nothing about Burns Lake

A story by Ontario journalist Laura Robinson published by the Georgia Straight on Sept. 27 alleges that several of Vancouver 2010 Olympic CEO John Furlong's ex-students have filed affidavits claiming he abused them while he taught at Prince George Catholic school in the 1970s.

The story also claims significant inconsistencies in Furlong's post-Olympic memoir, Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics that Changed a Country.

The February 2011 book was co-written with Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason.

Furlong has not immediately responded to an interview request, but Mason told The Tyee via email:

"I have been asked if John Furlong ever mentioned working in Burns Lake for several years before 1974 during the course of our interviews for Patriot Hearts. I can say he did not. As for the rest of the allegations in a Georgia Straight article about John, I have no knowledge and can't speak to them. Patriot Hearts was John Furlong's Olympic memoir. Any questions about it arising from the article written by Laura Robinson are best directed to John."

The cover of Patriot Hearts gives Furlong author's billing in larger letters, underneath which are the words "with Gary Mason."

Furlong is scheduled to address the media this afternoon in Gastown. Robinson's story said his lawyer, Marvin Storrow, denied the abuse allegations but did not answer questions about the credibility of Furlong's memoir.

Robinson's story claims Furlong arrived from Ireland in Canada as an 18 year-old in 1969 as an Oblate Frontier Apostolate missionary and went to teach physical education to mostly First Nations students at Immaculata elementary school in Burns Lake.

That contradicts Furlong, who wrote with Mason that he arrived in Edmonton in 1974 before settling in Prince George.

Robinson used a Dec. 13, 2003-published Irish Independent newspaper story ("The last moments of our beloved Siobhan") to question Furlong's version of the personal grief from a terrorist attack in Dublin that killed his cousin, Siobhan Roice.

Roice was one of 26 victims of the bombing in Dublin on May 17, 1974 (Furlong's book said it was May 14). Furlong claimed it was his father, Jack, who identified the 19-year-old's body at the morgue and he speculated the trauma led to his death from a heart attack less than a month later.

Robinson quoted Furlong's cousin, Jim Roice, who said Siobhan Roice's father Edward identified the body.

"Uncle Jack was a lovely man, but he did not identify my sister's body," according to Jim Roice.

Edward Roice died June 15, 2012, at age 93.

After the Games, Furlong was hired as a director of Whistler Blackcomb and chairman of Rocky Mountaineer Railtours, companies that did business with VANOC before and during the Games. Furlong was also appointed chair of Own the Podium, the body that uses taxpayer funds to finance high performance Olympic sport in Canada.

In April of this year, Furlong was hired as the executive chair of Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps. Whitecaps' spokeswoman Carly Jokic did not offer an immediate comment when contacted Thursday morning.

A request for comment from Own the Podium, of which Furlong is the board chair, was referred to former VANOC marketing vice-president Andrea Shaw of the Twentyten Group. Shaw did not immediately respond.

The Twentyten Group is located one floor below the Whitecaps in the Landing, a Gastown building where Furlong worked with the Vancouver Whistler Bid Corporation when it won hosting rights for the 2010 Games in 2003. The Bid Corporation became the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Furlong was hired in 2004 and attracted immediate criticism from Dick Pound, the Montreal lawyer and International Olympic Committee member. Pound was critical because of the perception that Furlong, who formerly managed the Arbutus Club, was too close to then-Premier Gordon Campbell.

The ninth anniversary of VANOC's incorporation is Sunday and the Twentyten Group is the mailing address for VANOC, which still exists as a legal entity to deal with insurance and legal claims. It must hold an annual general meeting this fall.

At the IOC's annual meeting on July 7, 2011, Furlong told IOC members: "We're very close to being no longer and by this time next year, we will, in fact, be no longer."

[Editor's note: Sorry, folks. Due to the sensitive subject matter in this story, it's Tyee policy to not allow commenting.]

Bob Mackin is a Vancouver-based journalist and regular contributor to The Tyee.