Monday, February 14, 2011

Where are they now?

Some called them Smurfs. Others simply "Blue Jackets". They were the core employees of the Vancouver Olympic committee. Many of them gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre for a reunion on Feb. 12, after the Olympic cauldron on Jack Poole Plaza was re-activated.

VANOC executives and management have gone their separate ways. They appear to have followed three different paths. Some are continuing in the world of sport, others were appointed to senior positions with British Columbia Crown corporations while several have embarked boldly on new ventures.


CEO John Furlong is now chairman of the Own the Podium advisory board and a director of Whistler Blackcomb, which is now traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Furlong's main source of income, for the short-term, appears to be as a motivational speaker. His Patriot Hearts memoir is key to that strategy.

Furlong is a former CEO of SportBC, the province's umbrella for amateur sports organizations. VANOC's vice-president of sport Tim Gayda was appointed CEO last year.

The only senior VANOC executive to have a senior appointment with the International Olympic Committee is chief financial officer John McLaughlin. McLaughlin was appointed to the 2018 Winter Games evaluation commission. The temporary appointment means trips to Annecy, France, Munich, Germany and PyeongChang, South Korea. McLaughlin is the commission's financial specialist.

Director of ice sports/general manager hockey Denis Hainault has a similar job with Sochi 2014.

Paula Kim was in charge of press operations at B.C. Place Stadium, the opening, closing and medals ceremonies venue. She is senior communications manager with the International Triathlon Union in North Vancouver, the only summer Olympic sports federation based in Canada.

Brand creative director Ali Gardiner is now vice-president of marketing and game presentation with Canucks Sports and Entertainment. Lawyer Chris Gear now heads CSE's legal department.

Canada's next sports mega-event is the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Vice-president of workforce Allen Vansen is the senior vice-president of transportation, security and village for the Toronto 2015 organizing committee. He was appointed days after the riot-marred G20 summit.

Director of merchandising and licensing Dennis Kim was appointed the Canadian Olympic Committee's executive director brand marketing.


Top level executives have made their way into jobs with British Columbia Crown corporations. This demonstrates the influence of Premier Gordon Campbell.

Construction executive vice-president Dan Doyle: BC Hydro chairman was first in summer 2009. Deputy CEO Dave Cobb followed in May 2010 to become the power monopoly's CEO. Cobb, in turn, hired VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade, Chris Brumwell, Greg
Alexis and Jennifer Young in a major overhaul of the communications department.

Chief Information Officer Ward Chapin now has the same job with ICBC. Workforce and sustainability executive vice-president Donna Wilson is Vice-president of industry services and sustainability at WorkSafeBC. Government relations and celebrations executive vice-president David Guscott is the E-Comm 9-1-1 CEO.


The best advice imparted by Furlong to the Sochi 2014 organizing committee at the June 2010 knowledge transfer sessions in Russia was to "stick together."

That's precisely what several VANOC employees have done, creating their own post-Games clusters.

Vice-president marketing Andrea Shaw is managing partner of the Twentyten Group. Shaw's company in the Landing in Gastown became the post-October 2010 home of VANOC, or what was left of it. Coincidentally, Twentyten Group's office is one floor below where the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation was based when it was awarded the 2010 Games on July 2, 2003.

Shaw is joined by commercial rights manager Bill Cooper, who is a senior partner with Twentyten. Associates include Mags Doehler, Breedon Grauer, Catherine Locke, Rob Mullowney, Kala Polman-Tuin and Stephanie Cornish.

Paralympics director Dena Coward leads a group at the Rick Hansen Foundation's Man in Motion 25th Anniversary Celebration. Torch relays director Jim Richards is coordinating Hansen's international tour. VANOC communications staffers Suzanne Reeves, Mary Fraser and John Gibson have joined them.

Vice-president of partnerships and strategy Taleeb Noormohamed is president of e-learning concern Serebra Learning Corp. and running for North Vancouver federal Liberal Party nomination. Director of ticketing Chris Stairs is Serebra's vice-president of sales, while manager of partnerships Matthew Bonguorno is sales manager and torch relay communications manager Jenee Elborne is director of communications.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know:

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