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No need to disown 'Own the Podium' slogan

Former Vanoc head Furlong says trying to win 'isn't a bad thing'

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VANCOUVER -- Former Vanoc head John Furlong will become the new chair of Own the Podium's advisory board, the federal government announced at a news conference Tuesday.

Asked about his other career plans, Furlong also revealed that he has found a publisher for a book about his experience heading the 2010 Winter Olympics and will go on a worldwide speaking tour, saying he's been "inundated with requests to talk about the Games."

Furlong said it's too early to say what Own the Podium's medal targets will be for the 2012 Summer Games in London -- or how much money it will need from government and corporate sponsors to succeed. But he was clear about one thing: He doesn't think the program needs a new, more modest name.

"No name change, I don't think," he said. "I think it's time for us to accept that trying to be a winner isn't a bad thing. I think it looks good on us and we need to do it more. We just need to do it with humility."

Own the Podium spent $117 million in the lead-up to the Winter Games in the hopes of winning more medals in Vancouver and Whistler than any other country. Some other countries' athletes criticized the program as being arrogant, and it looked like a failure in the early days of the Games, when several Canadian athletes didn't perform up to expectations.

However, by the end of the Games, Canada had won 14 gold medals, more than any other country in the history of the Winter Olympics, and the program was widely seen as a success.

In the last federal budget, Ottawa committed to increasing its annual support for Own the Podium from $11 million to $22 million a year for winter sports and from $36 million to $42 million annually for summer sports.

Furlong said he's hopeful provincial governments and corporate sponsors will also step up with funding.

"It will be easier for us to make the argument than it ever was before," he said, given the program's success. "We're not talking from a position of weakness. We're talking from a position of strength."

As for the book he's writing, Furlong said it will be a personal account of his role in the Games but he also hopes to explain why Vancouverites embraced the Games so heartily, pouring onto the streets in a near-constant street party.

"It's something the Olympic movement hasn't seen before. We haven't seen this kind of euphoria on a human scale," he said. "Something happened here that was fairly unique that we should want to understand and do again."

Furlong, who chaired Sport B.C. and the 2010 bid before taking over Vanoc, said he hasn't decided what his next full-time job will be.

Also named to the advisory board on Tuesday were 1976 Olympic speed skating medallist Cathy Priestner Allinger; sports broadcaster Keith Pelley; sport medicine specialist Dr. Mike Wilkinson; Canadian astronaut Julie Payette; National Research Council scientist Dr. Guy Larose; and director of sport excellence at Sport Canada Lane MacAdam.

-- Canwest News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2010 C5

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