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Patriot Hearts
Cover of Patriot Hearts
Patriot Hearts
Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country
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A riveting behind-the-scenes account of the transformative 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games—an extraordinary story of visionary leadership, love of country and the ability to dream boldly.

When John Furlong emigrated from Ireland in 1974, the customs officer greeted him with “Welcome to Canada. Make us better”—an imperative that has defined Furlong’s life ever since. A passionate, accomplished athlete with a track record of community service, Furlong was a volunteer for Vancouver’s Olympic bid movement when it began in 1996 and then spent the next 14 years living and breathing the Olympics. Furlong and his organizing team, including 25,000 volunteers and many partners, orchestrated a remarkable Winter Games. Patriot Hearts is the story of how they did it.

Working with Globe & Mail columnist Gary Mason, Furlong recounts the lead­up to the Games and describes how he handled seemingly insurmountable setbacks—such as the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, a global recession and the washed­out snow at Cypress Bowl — to achieve a runaway success and, ultimately, a pivotal moment of nationhood.
A riveting behind-the-scenes account of the transformative 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games—an extraordinary story of visionary leadership, love of country and the ability to dream boldly.

When John Furlong emigrated from Ireland in 1974, the customs officer greeted him with “Welcome to Canada. Make us better”—an imperative that has defined Furlong’s life ever since. A passionate, accomplished athlete with a track record of community service, Furlong was a volunteer for Vancouver’s Olympic bid movement when it began in 1996 and then spent the next 14 years living and breathing the Olympics. Furlong and his organizing team, including 25,000 volunteers and many partners, orchestrated a remarkable Winter Games. Patriot Hearts is the story of how they did it.

Working with Globe & Mail columnist Gary Mason, Furlong recounts the lead­up to the Games and describes how he handled seemingly insurmountable setbacks—such as the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, a global recession and the washed­out snow at Cypress Bowl — to achieve a runaway success and, ultimately, a pivotal moment of nationhood.
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    From the Introduction

    I felt strangely relaxed from the moment I woke up that Sunday, the last day of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Call it an old athlete's intuition, but I liked Canada's chances in the gold medal men's hockey game. In fact, even though the United States had defeated us earlier in the tournament, I felt assured about the outcome of the rematch that would be played that afternoon. It was a game I had dreamed about even before we won the bid to host the Games in Prague, back in July 2003. That seemed so long ago now.

    I walked out on the balcony of the suite I had been staying in at the Westin Bayshore during the Games. As I had every morning since they began 16 days earlier, I checked on two things: the cauldron at the waterfront and the weather. I was always relieved when I saw the flame still burning. A clear sky made me feel even better.

    Sometimes the entire Olympic experience felt like a dream to me. Occasionally I would think I was going to wake up and discover it had all been fiction. That morning was no different. Had this all really happened? So many days it had felt surreal walking around and knowing you were part of something so massive in scope, so dramatic in its telling. Something that was so important to entire nations. The biggest event to ever be organized on Canadian soil.

    You could tell by the number of Canadians who were watching the Olympics on television and devouring daily accounts of the Games in the newspapers that interest was off the charts. A day earlier, somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 per cent of the country had tuned in to watch the coverage. Those were never-before-seen-or-imagined numbers. Ecstatic Olympic broadcasters expected them to be even bigger for the gold medal hockey game. And they would be.

    Face-off was set for noon.

    Before the game started I had to attend a team meeting to review our plans for the many challenges the final day posed. There would be 80,000 people cramming into two arenas in the space of four or five hours. For everything to start on time it was going to take military-like precision and discipline. After that meeting finished, I had to attend a wind-up news conference at the Main Press Centre.

    I would be struck by how different the questions were at the final session with reporters compared to the ones I had to handle a couple of weeks earlier when the common perception, certainly among the British press, was that the Games were in trouble. Now many of those same reporters were writing that we had staged perhaps the best Winter Olympics in history.

    Shortly before 11 a.m., I hopped in a car and started heading to Canada Hockey Place, where the game was being played. On the way I passed several downtown restaurants and bars, outside of which stood hundreds of colourfully-clad people waiting to get in. I'm sure records were set that day across the country for most beer sold on a Sunday.

    By the time the puck was dropped the crowd was on its feet, chanting, making more noise than I'd ever heard in a hockey rink. Imagine a 747 revving its engines inside a hangar - that's how loud it felt. All around me were adults and children screaming their hearts out. I could only shake my head in wonder at how sport could transform a cross-section of Canadians into a roiling mass of kinetic energy.

    I knew nothing about hockey before arriving in Canada from Ireland. But I quickly learned just what the game meant to people here. It was to Canadians what Gaelic football was to those back home. And the more I came to understand the game, the more I realized Canadians had rallied around a sport that defined them and their spirit. Hockey players were among...

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Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country
John Furlong
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