Vancouver Olympic memories...Richard Branson arrives today...Iceland blog
"Not yet," he said in a swing through a post-G20 Toronto today. "I'm hoping maybe this weekend."
Furlong was busy, of course, with the Paralympic Games in March. Since then, he's been advising folks in London about the 2012 Games and Sochi, Russia about the 2014 Winter Olympics. He's also chairman of the board of Own the Podium.
Today, however, he was in town mostly to talk about the massive and impressive official commemorative book of the Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games, titled "With Glowing Hearts."
There's everything you can imagine, including breathtaking scenery and athlete shots, photos of the opening and closing ceremonies and shots of the amazing volunteers. There are mountains aglow with light. Some even have snow on them (sorry, John). There's a guy named Crosby waving a giant Canadian flag. There's Moir and Virtue and a tearful Joannie Rochette and Alex Bilodeau and Shaun White and Lauren Woolstencroft, who swept all five of her Paralympic alpine events for Canadian glory. And, yes, there's something on the Georgian luger who was killed early on, Nodar
There's also a photo of give guys standing at a urinal, with their jackets revealing the fact they were from Peru, Croatia, the U.S.A. and Mexico. I guess there's solidarity everywhere at the Olympics.
Oddly enough, Furlong said this marks the first time an organizing committee has put out a post-Games book. You'd think it was a natural after, say, the Sydney Games or even Salt Lake, but it didn't happen.
"We tried not to leave anything out," he said as he went through some favourite photos.
The book retails for $85. Proceeds are spli
Furlong yesterday said he still expects a balanced budget, but no major operating profit from hosting the Games. The Games budget included a $110 million fund to help maintain the Richmond Oval for speedksating, the nordic venues in the Callaghan Valley and the Whistler sliding track.
Olympics ended four months ago yesterday; the Paralympics a few weeks later. The Vancouver organizing committee had 50,000 workers at the peak, and Furlong said he's now down to 20. Not thousand. Twenty.
"We have a few more contracts to deal with and we have to do a proper audit and prepare a final report for the International Olympic Committee."
Furlong is now heading up the Own the Podium program, which helped Canada top the gold medal standings in Vancouver. He's trying to keep that going for Sochi, Russia in 2014 and to boost Canada's performance at the Summer Games in London in 2012.
"We want to be a contender in most sports," he said. "We haven't won a team medal at the summer Games in six decades."
To improve Canada's standings, Furlong and OTP are going to need corporate funding. They did quite well with Vancouver, but London and Sochi will be tougher sells. He also realizes the competition will be very tough.
Vancouver had 14 venues, but Sochi has 70 projects under construction, Furlong said, and they stretch over a 135-kilometre-long area.
"I think they'll get it done. Failure is not an option. This is about the face of Russia in this century."
Furlong said he expected a few dozen letters from Canadians after the Games. Instead, he said he received thousands. One of his favourites was from a couple who wanted to rent out their B and B in Squamish, B.C. They thought they had rented to some folks from Switzerland, so they festooned their place in red and white and brought in Swiss flags.
When the tenants arrived for the Games, they were Germans. It wasn't necessarily a problem, but the owners had relatives in the World Wars and had something of a history with Germany.
"By the end, they were good friends and exchanged keys. She told me the Games had removed hatred from her family's home."
Furlong said he expects Vancouver to get its Canadian face back on this week for Canada Day. That's the day they'll officially open Jack Poole Plaza on the waterfront; the plaza named after the guy who got Vancouver's bid off the ground some 10 years ago. It should be great, but it might not rival the feeling in the streets four months ago.
Furlong laughs when he talks about how Canadians went so wild in the streets and how he remembers talking to folks in China about the lack of people walking through the Olympic park in Beijing on a daily basis.
"I asked someone one day why they didn't open the doors and he told me, "Everyone would've come.' I guess in China, that's a lot of people."VIRGIN AMERICA TAKES OVER THE THOMPSON
Should be a pretty good bash at the new Thompson Hotel in Toronto tonight. Virgin America chief Richard Branson and a bunch of celebrities were due to arrive on the tarmac at Pearson Airport today, then make their way downtown for a rooftop party under the (potentially chilly) stars.
I mentioned the other day that it was going to be interesting to see how Air Canada responds. I got a note from the good folks at AC the other day to remind me that they earlier added new services from Toronto to Orange County, as well as San Diego (which started June 17). They've also boosted service to San Francisco to five flights a day and brought in lie-flat suites in Executive First service on select flights to Los Angeles.
Capacity is to be increased 51 per cent between Toronto and California this year, compared to last, officials said.
LINDA BARNARD IN ICELAND
Star entertainment writer Linda Barnard, always good for some laughs and travel insights, is making her presence felt in Reykjavik. And apparently standing in both Europe and North America at the same time. You can check her out by clicking on this link. Keep up the good work, Linda.