Furlong chosen CEO of Vancouver 2010

John Furlong has been voted the chief executive officer of Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics.

Jack Poole, the chairman of Vancouver's 2010 board of directors, confirmed Furlong's appointment at a news conference Friday.

The decision was made during a telephone conference involving the Vancouver 2010 Games 20-member board of directors.

"This is not a job, it's a cause," said Furlong, 53, who chaired the bid committee that won Vancouver the Games during a July vote in Prague. "It's a huge challenge. I will, for my part, give it all I have."

Furlong was considered one of two front-runners for the job. The identity of the other top candidate has been kept secret. Furlong will be paid $300,000 a year. He will also receive a 25-per-cent bonus each year if targets are met.

The announcement also came on the same day former International Olympic Committee vice-president and 2010 board member Dick Pound accused the B.C. government of trying to "hijack" the selection process in favour of Furlong.

Furlong admitted to being "surprised and a little hurt" by Pound's comments.

He also said one of the first telephone calls of congratulations he received was from Pound.

"He left me a very long and thoughtful voice mail," Furlong said.

Pound wasn't alone in his criticism of Vancouver's selection process.

Prior to Christmas, members of the IOC subtly expressed frustration it's taken the Vancouver board so long to find a CEO. An IOC official said he hoped a CEO would be in place when by the time the Games' co-ordination commission comes to Vancouver for a March 30 to April 1 visit.

"I look forward to John forming a key part of the team that now has less than six years to prepare," said Rene Fasel, chairman of the IOC co-ordination commission for the 2010 Games.

A father of five, Furlong will head a $2-billion project that culminates with the world's attention being focused on Vancouver and Whistler in February 2010.

Furlong told a news conference his goal will be to "build an honourable, inspiring organization."

"If we can do that we will really have done our country proud," he said, sitting beside a ticking clock that showed the Games opening ceremonies were 2,183 days seven hours away.

"The success of this project will depend less on me and more on the quality of team we have in place. My job will be to lead the team."

To be named CEO, a candidate must be endorsed by 75 per cent of the board of directors. The person also must receive the approval of three of the four levels of government on the board.

The federal government, the province of B.C., the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the City of Vancouver all have representatives on the board.

A seven-member search committee headed by Vancouver businessman Michael Phelps reviewed the applications of more than 200 people. Since many of those people are already employed, the committee was very secretive about potential candidates.

Phelps said Furlong received more than the sufficient majority.

"John Furlong is highly intelligent and highly ambitious. He has been working on this file for six years," Phelps said.

The CEO is the public face of the Games. The person will bask in glory if the Olympics are a success, but will face the wrath of the public should any scandal erupt.

It's a job that requires overseeing a multi-billion dollar project that involves building venues, transporting people and being aware of environmental concerns.

The CEO must have the backbone to meet construction deadlines, the resolve to hold firm against blowing political winds and the finesse to deal with community groups and international heads of state.

One of the criticisms of Furlong, who has spent the last several years as CEO of a tony private club in Vancouver, is he's never managed a major construction project.

Furlong said he will surround himself with capable people and added he will make an effort to learn French.

with files from Canadian Press