John Furlong lets loose on Mayor Gregor in new biography

GlobalTV covers John Furlong’s candid comments about local politicians – see video

UPDATE: GlobalTV News Hour Final leads with a report on Furlong’s book and a very uncomfortable looking Gregor Robertson (and Kevin "Vancouver Kid" Quinlan) facing media questions.


John Furlong’s upcoming biography Patriot Hearts promises to give us a glimpse of the man behind VANOC that we never knew. This is clear now that 24 Hours reporter and Olympic Games blogger Bob Mackin has released excerpts from a preview copy of the book. Among the funny and frank details revealed are Furlong’s frustration in dealing with Mayor Gregor Robertson.

In his recent blog post titled "Vancouver Mayor not favoured in Furlong book," Mackin releases two passages pertaining to Furlong’s candid estimation of Vancouver’s mayor. On page 118 he describes the massive damage Robertson inflicted on the Olympic Athlete’s Village:

“The new mayor didn’t help by trying to play politics with the situation he inherited, making the NPA look as bad as possible in the process. He suggested that taxpayers had been left with a $1-billion nightmare. I thought it was a lot of overhyped rhetoric that wasn’t particularly helpful or especially fair. In fact it would come back to haunt him a bit. By the fall of 2010, the Athletes village was back in the news for all the wrong reasons.”

It is widely estimated by real estate & development experts that Gregor Robertson’s internationally quoted comment describing the Olympic Village as a "train wreck" has cost between $50 million, to as high as $200 million of value on the troubled project. That’s money that Vancouver taxpayers no longer have thanks to the Mayor’s insistence on politicizing the development.

The second passage in Furlong’s book describes the insistence by Robertson that protocol rules be revised to give him more profile. We’ve reported here earlier that Gregor was virtually invisible before and during the Olympics, spending most of his time holed up in private parties at Vancouver House with political supporters.  On page 157, Furlong says:

“Initially everyone seemed good with this arrangement but one day I got a call from the mayor, who was freaking out about not being part of the ceremony in Olympia. He told me that Greek friends had informed him that part of the ceremony involved the passing of something or other from a representative from Olympia to the mayor of the host city. All news to me. Gregor said it was now vital he be there. He insisted on it. I was taken aback, as this change would mean more surgery to the protocol plan. ‘Gregor,’ I said, ‘I think I would know if that was suposed to happen.’ He persisted and I gave in. (The information Gregor received never was validated in Olympia.).”

Mackin points out that Furlong thanks various politicians in the book, but not Robertson or any other mayor. Recollect that Robertson enlisted his political PR team FD Element on a no-bid $54,000 video project to promote Gregor during the 2010 Games. That was publicity for Gregor paid for by taxpayers, and Robertson struggled to explain to media his relationship with the political insiders FD Element.

While many including those of us here at have speculated as to whether John Furlong would have any future political ambitions, it’s pretty clear from Patriot Hearts that the plain speaking of the former VANOC boss might make him a poor fit for politics. Read more posts about John’s book such as this one on Bob Mackin’s blog.

On a related note, yesterday the City of Vancouver and feds lined up for a flashy news conference to flog the economic benefits of the 2010 Games. Mayor Gregor continues to propagate the idea that his business focus at Vancouver House and elsewhere have brought huge dividends to the region. While many media reported the numbers as is, those who asked the tough questions like Mackin, CKNW News, and the Globe and Mail‘s Wendy Stueck were less convinced.

For his QMI report, Mackin casts a wary eye on the boasts by Robertson and Metro Vancouver Commerce on Olympic benefits.

Last April, MVC claimed there were $60 million worth of non-film economic benefits. Those spinoffs included $1.3 million for Vancouver energy consumption software company Pulse Energy to make a joint bid for a British government contract. The partnership with Southfacing UK was not chosen.

Toronto’s Monetime was supposed to inject $1 million in the local economy and hire up to 10 people. It opened a Yaletown office and instead hired six (including three part-timers) for a six-month project last year, but is now down to two people.

The region has suffered considerable business losses tied to the struggling United States economy. Perhaps the biggest example was Microsoft, which vacated 73,000-square feet of Richmond’s Crestwood Corporate Centre last fall. Employees who were not laid-off from the 2007-opened Microsoft Canada Development Centre moved to an existing downtown Vancouver office. In November, Robertson’s city council pushed Olympic Village developer Millennium into receivership over a $740 million debt.

In Saturday’s Globe Stueck has two stories about the questionable numbers put forward by Metro Vancouver Commerce, and the struggles faced by Whistler, BC.

Stueck’s report describes how Gregor Robertson touted the notion that Tom Cruise is filming in B.C. has a clear link to the 2010 Games.

Asked whether it was accurate to credit Paramount Pictures’ decision to film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in the Lower Mainland to the program, Mr. Robertson said the exposure and connections generated through the Metro Vancouver Commerce program helped tip the scales for studio decisions.

The Vancouver film industry has been pretty robust and growing since 1986. Many huge box office successes have been filmed here, and plenty of A-list talent are cast in Vancouver shot movies. That MVC and the mult-billion dollar Games would be a draw for Tom Cruise in the autumn of his film career doesn’t wash with skeptics.

Commenters on Stueck’s G&M story are not convinced overall. This comment by Parallel49 kind of sums up the sentiments:

What a load of bollocks. As a member of the Vancouver film community for over 20 years, I can tell you honestly it was provincial movie tax credits and the HST which is luring productions to Vancouver. Gregor Robertson’s only achievements have been allowing Vancouverites to keep chickens and an over abundance of bike lanes.

Certainly the Mayor’s office will be doing their best to deflect the candid remarks of St. John Furlong about their man. Patriot Hearts, written with Webster Award winning journalist Gary Mason, is on bookshelves now and it is described as a page-turner.

– post by Mike

Wrap up of the week's stories 2011-02-05
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  • Max

    I was out and about daily during the Olympics and only once saw the Mayor, down at Robson Square running an intro.
    I did however, see Premier Campbell several times and managed a pretty good pic of him with a group of youngsters playing hockey – again at Robson Sqaure.
    As for the Oly Village – we had international athletes stating how great they thought the units were which opened the door of opportunity for futher promotion.
    They could have run with that, grabbed an ad agency, set up photo shoots with various athletes and their medals snapped pics outside, inside, etc. and used it for marketing.
    When I originally read the remarks put forward by Robertson – the first thing that ran through my mind is ‘what the hell are you thinking????’. And sadly, it was only the tip of the negative messaging iceburg.
    I have zero doubt Robertson and Vision cost us huge dollars because of their statements and I am glad Furlong has called him on it.

  • Max

    FYI – I see various groups are still planning the ‘tent city’ at the Oly Village starting this upcoming Friday, Feb. 11.
    Tent City meeting TODAY 2PM
    Public Organizing Meeting for Olympic Tent Village 2011
    Sunday January 23, 2:00pm-4:30pm
    First United Church (320 Hastings St. at Gore)

  • john

    Now the nonsense and waste of tax payers money is just starting for the 2 ring circus that came to town.

  • gregory

    The train wreck is Gregor and his Vision Party.
    Sounds like the guy has an ego problem?

  • boohoo

    Patriot Hearts?
    I hope the book smells like maple syrup too.
    Also, love the totally irrelevant personal anecdote Max.

  • landlord

    It’s nice to know what others think of the Mayor, but consider the source. Mr. Furlong spent $2 Billion of public money on a 2-week jock-fest. Never mind what else we could have done with that much money. Was it money well spent? Just how well-managed were the Games?
    Check out the BC Auction website for the answer ( They’re trying to sell off all the stuff they bought which is now left over. Example: a pallet with fifty-four 19-inch Lenovo flat screen monitors, never used, new in box, current bid $60 per (about 20% of retail).

  • Too Funny

    It looks like Gregor really wanted to have his Sam Sullivan Olympic moment in the sun. Clearly that didn’t work buddy. Does anyone remember Gregor doing anything during the games? What an utter goofball for mayor.
    Thank god John has exposed this man for what he is. A shallow, camera loving, publicity seeking politician who’ll do anything to get his mugshot on the 6 oclock news. Only a few more months left of this and we’ll have the option to vote him out.

  • Julia

    60% of retail?
    1) you are assuming those are Olympic leftovers. The public service is a big place. I am actually pleased to see the government trying to recover money for some of this stuff – regardless of department.
    2) as for the 19 inch monitor (read dinosaur) given they would have bought them at a contract price, given the technology is probably 2+ years old, given than nobody I know would want that many monitors in 1 lot… and given that you can buy a 19″ LG monitor on Craigslist for $70, I would say they are doing pretty good.
    3) Price Coopers Waterhouse did the analysis – don’t see why John Furlong is obligated to do the same. Mr. Furlong was hired to do a job – and he did it well, whether you agree with the job or not.
    get over it.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    What Julia said.
    And boohoo…boo hoo. You seem to be a tetch crabbier than usual.

  • bobh

    Gregor Robertson is such an easy target. There are so many things he can be criticized for. Furlong just adds to the list.

  • I think I might get the Patriot Hearts (if I manage to get over the cheesiest title of the year) to see whether it stands up to the rumours about it or not. The passages I have read so far seem promising. And good luck to the Mayor’s office PR division, seems there are hard times coming!

  • bobh

    Landlord, your price quotes for 19 inch monitors is about 6 years out of date. A 19 inch monitor can be had for not much more that a hundred bucks these days. 21 inch and 23 inch monitors are much more in demand. And Lenovo monitors do not fetch as much as Samsung and a couple of other brands.
    So check your facts first before posting

  • Max

    Patriot Hearts?
    I hope the book smells like maple syrup too.
    Also, love the totally irrelevant personal anecdote Max….boohoo
    My reply to you boohoo:
    Suck it up cupcake, I’m entitled to my opinion just as you are entitled to yours.
    Relevance is objective. Sorry it falls out of your criteria of ‘polite conversation’.
    I truly enjoyed the Olympics, as did 100’s of thousands of others patriotic Canadians. The title of the book is fitting – it was the people that brought everything together and we should be proud, as a country, as a province and as a city.
    I will also state I think Campbell did a kick-ass job representing the country, the province and the city during the Olympics. He was everywhere.
    As compared to our Mayor, who was …. where?
    Don’t like my ‘personal ancedote’ – tough, I could care less.

  • boohoo

    For someone who doesn’t care you should said a lot…
    My point is your anecdotal sightings of Campbell = him being visible and out there while you not seeing gregor = him being mia is…well it’s just silly.
    I was out and about too, I saw more of Stephen Colbert than I did of Campbell or Gregor–perhaps from that I should deduce Colbert is a better representative of the olympics/vancouver/canada whatever other bs you want?

  • KWL

    It turns out everyone’s favorite Olympic CEO Furlong isn’t looking so good himself now that it has been revealed he knew more about the dangers of the Olympic luge track well before the Olympics then he let on after the Georgian luger’s death.
    Gregor’s little hissy fit seems pretty trivial in comparison.
    Oh, and if Furlong complains that Gregor was trying to use the Olympics for his moment in the spotlight then what was Campbell doing prancing around in his red gloves in front of every camera that he could?

  • Max

    ‘Oh, and if Furlong complains that Gregor was trying to use the Olympics for his moment in the spotlight then what was Campbell doing prancing around in his red gloves in front of every camera that he could?’
    I don’t know…..his job?

  • KWL

    Uh no Max, the Premiere was playing politics with the Olympics.If one didn’t know any better they would’ve thought that they were the 2010 Campbell Winter Olympics given how many times he was in the media with his silly red gloves on.
    The only one who was never trying to get his mug in front of the camera at every opportunity was Ken Melamed, the mayor of Whistler.