Two years later, Furlong legal battle quietly drags on

New digs and gigs for ex-Vancouver Olympics bigwigs

John Furlong
John Furlong

The second anniversary of the expose on Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics CEO John Furlong came and went. Quietly.

The Georgia Straight’s Sept. 27, 2012 story, “John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake,” included allegations from sworn statements by former Immaculata elementary students that the lay Irish Catholic missionary was physically and verbally abusive while he was their gym teacher in 1969 and 1970. Furlong’s Patriot Hearts memoir mentioned touching down in Edmonton in 1974, but not a peep about his first sortie to Canada.

Furlong sued the newspaper and journalist Laura Robinson in November 2012 for defamation. Last fall, he dropped the lawsuit against the Georgia Straight. The story that offended him remains online, for anyone to read. He vowed to escalate his action against Robinson. She claims to have spent more than $200,000 on legal bills, but Furlong has yet to schedule a trial date against her.

Robinson countersued for defamation and that trial is scheduled to be heard in March 2015 in B.C. Supreme Court. Three people who claim they were Furlong’s students at Immaculata are suing Furlong for physical and sexual abuse. That is also expected to go to trail in March. None of the allegations has been proven in court. Allegations by one of the ex-students, Beverly Abraham, were investigated by RCMP, but no criminal charges were laid.

Renee Smith-Valade
Renee Smith-Valade

Furlong’s public speaking career has all but evaporated, but he remains chair of Own the Podium, Vancouver Whitecaps and Rocky Mountaineer, and is also a director of Whistler Blackcomb and Canadian Tire.

Property records show Furlong has called a $975,000 Yaletown loft home since last spring. The document lists Furlong’s joint tenant in a century-old former warehouse near a Canada Line station as Renee Smith-Valade, vice-president of customer experience with Air Canada’s discount Rouge airline.

Smith-Valade was Furlong’s vice-president of communications at VANOC.

The thrice-married Furlong’s Patriot Hearts was glowingly dedicated to his “dearest friend” and former executive assistant Catherine Bachand, but Smith-Valade has maintained a close association with Furlong since the Games. She leaked documents to the Globe and Mail and CTV in a bid to pre-empt CBC’s Fifth Estate Death at the Games documentary in February 2011. The explosive report alleged VANOC negligence led to the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Whistler Sliding Centre on the Games’ opening day.

In October 2013, Smith-Valade helped set-up Furlong’s one-on-one interview on BC1 with anchor Chris Gailus.

Meanwhile, ex-VANOC chief financial officer John McLaughlin was named Sept. 29 by the International Olympic Committee as a financial expert on a bid evaluation panel for the third time.

McLaughlin advised the evaluation committees for the 2016 and 2018 Olympics. He will be part of the group vetting bids by Almaty and Beijing for the 2022 Winter Games. The IOC votes July 31, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.

Ex-VANOC vice-president of sport Tim Gayda will be the panel’s sport expert. Canadian Olympic Committee chief sport officer Caroline Assalian is the third Canadian, representing the Association of National Olympic Committees.

No ex-VANOC executives were named to IOC president Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020 reform panels, neither have any ex-VANOC executives served on an IOC coordination commission.

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