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.