Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 Unifying Values that Propelled Canada to a Historic Olympics Success

On Sunday (July 25) MPI (Meeting Professionals International) WEC Attendees were treated to an amazing presentation by John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.  I  watched the archived recorded version of this Opening General Session, as there were technical challenges with the live-streamed version.

Mr Furlong’s speech was delivered with as much conviction as any I have ever witnessed, and more than most.  After viewing screenshots of the audience I am convinced this extraordinary individual captured the undivided attention of MPI’s entire audience.  His vivid portrayal of the challenging planning events leading to this historically, successful Winter Olympics, was both heartwarming and inspirational.

It’s clear, from Furlong’s presentation, that VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) experienced many pain points along the way, in their quest to deliver what may be historically referred to as the “best Winter Olympic Games ever.”  Among the most significant of the challenges:

  • The accidental death of a luge athlete on Day 1 of the games — a setback of enormous proportions, requiring the entire Olympics staff to regroup and re-focus on the event.
  • “100-year weather conditions” — necessitating that Olympics staff drive trucks for 100KM to load snow onto trucks, and then carry it back to the games site.  Men and Women slept on the mountain, day after day, to make this happen.

Through extraordinary adversity the people of Canada unified themselves, with courage and determination, to bring this event successfully across the finish line.  In my estimation there is no question they accomplished that.  What do you think?

“Our goal was not to have people turn on their television sets and view extraordinary images and watch athletes win gold, silver and bronze medals, but to touch the very soul of our country… To take the Olympic spirit and walk it through the front door of every home … To have it spoken about at the kitchen table … To touch every life so that at the end every Canadian could say these Olympic games were the one thing we did as a country that we all have in common with each other.” — John Furlong, CEO, Vancouver Organizing Committee, 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

Canada Has a Compelling Vision

So what are the learning lessons from this experience?  The answer is not complicated, in fact it’s pretty simple.  The Canadians had a compelling vision… they believed profoundly in what they were doing.  They were determined to go flat out, with a spirit of relentlessness, every single day, because they saw a higher purpose to their mission.

Olympics Volunteer

Anchoring that vision was a very important set of unifying values, developed by the Olympics Leadership team, early in the planning process.  Every blue jacket (volunteer) working on the Olympics project embraced this code, with pride.  It became the moral compass by which they navigated through challenges.

5 Unifying Values

Teamwork – Put a champion in every role … talented people that like to work with others, in teams.  These people refuse to quit and will do what they must do to get the job done.  The success of the games depends on  it.

Culture of Trust – Must make people  feel they are trusted.  They must also be trustworthy.  The goal is to instill a spirit of believing in one another across the organization.

Excellence – Strive to raise the bar, settle for nothing less than perfection in every aspect of the project.

Creative – Looking back what will have been the magic, the innovations, the new things that leave a gasping legacy.  The goal is to generate a sense of awe in everyone experiencing the games.

Sustainability – Do the right thing every time, no matter what, whether standing in front of a camera or behind it.  The calling, whether it’s the environment, new jobs, youth, or sport is to leave a very positive human legacy behind.

“To the men and women in the blue jackets, you are the undisputed heroes of these Games. The class of 2010.” — John Furlong, Olympic Closing Ceremony Speech (February 28, 2010)

Do you see how the strategy used for executing this amazing event could be applied to your organization’s events? What would be your compelling vision? What values would make up your moral compass? Interesting questions indeed … would love to see your thoughts!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Palmer July 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

Loved this post, Mike. I particularly like Number 2 — I don’t think anything worthwhile happens without that. And I like how Number 5 expands the idea of sustainability beyond the environment.

Convene published a story in February about how the Committee was including the indigenous population in every aspect of the Games — I think a very powerful example of sustainability and legacy-building.


Thanks, Mike!


Michael M McCurry CMP July 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Hi Barbara,

I could not agree more with your comments … they are spot on!

John Furlong was truly remarkable in this session, as he truly captured and shared the energy and vision of the 2010 winter games for the audience. The five values were an eye-opener for me and motivated me to look at some strategic things I am working on a little differently.

Thanks for contributing.



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