Partners in Prevention 2012

Just attended the annual provincial conference on occupational health and safety. The kick-off speaker was John Furlong Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. He brought forward inspiring vignettes of developing and sustaining a team dedicated unswervingly to the vision of the event. That was to deliver in a timely and unprecedented way the best in amateur sport, the best of the beautiful British Columbia facilities and the heartfelt involvement of every Canadian in welcoming the world.

He spoke of his candidacy interview where vision was the thing rather than construction or logistics. He explained the grueling process of formulating the Olympic Torch Run throughout the nation and touching as many communities as possible; virtually 105 days of non-stop execution. He heard workers say "that Furlong is going to kill us". His grinning response was "you can sleep in March". The vision continued as every participant in every department took possession of his/her responsibility in "presenting the Games".

Then came the challenge of weather and scarcity of snow, defying all technical predictions. A rescue came from a park some 100 kilometres away and innumerable truckloads involving many a tired but smiling volunteer trucker. The key downhill mountain was covered with snow and then insulated with Westerners' hay.

It appeared that every contingency had been handled, but then right at the point immediately preceeding the opening ceremonies tragedy struck. A favoured bobsled runner from Georgia had suffered a serious accident in practice rounds. His life hung tenuously in the hands of the best of Canadian physicians. A few hours later, death and the most difficult and critical of all meetings of the Organizing Committee. But the vision persisted with the most sensitive of arrangements being made for the Georgian team and the athlete's immediate family and homeward return of his remains.

Furlong was asked to be a pall-bearer at a small chapel funeral service. Upon exiting the church the group were surprised by an unexpected honour guard simply volunteered by one of the local police units. The first officer' s face observed showed unrestrained tears. To Furlong's mind this was a galvanizing and definitive moment. The Nation and its people had gotten it...the vision.

Fast forward to the last fews days of the Games. Furlong was expected to accompany the digitaries but he chose rather to don the blue garb of the volunteer force attending upon each venue, and to go out to visit the helping people and to thank them and encourage toward a final push. Here he saw again convincing evidence that the team had taken possession of the vision. They weren't plowing a mountain or organizing buses or delivering meals or watering a rink or houskeeping. They were delivering the Games. One woman from New Brunswick thanked him profusely for the privilege of helping in something so good and memorable. She was a cancer patient whose family had balked at the first suggestion of such a crazy and risky venture out West. Eventually and lovingly they conceded that she had been right.

He couldn't resist some words on the final hockey game featuring Canada and the United States. Would Canada earn an unprecedented 14th gold medal? The nerve-wracking tie at the end of regulation time. The booming arena and outside assembly points in the over-time. The unforgettable panorama of red and white. Crosby's incredible goal. A nation making noise.

Furlong's intent was to tell a marvelous story of responsibility and achievement of the human spirit, and then to translate it to a gathering of professionals trying to offer new and infectious ideas for involvement and safety in the workplace. He succeeded memorably.

See our earlier post Olympic Rings!/2010/02/olympic-rings.html


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