The Right Man for the Job

By Mark Ferguson (Fall 2008 Green and White)

Photo by Les Bazso/The Province
Jack Poole

Jack Poole says there is not enough money in the world to pay him for his work bringing the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver, so he's doing it for nothing.

The former CEO of the Vancouver Olympic bid committee and current chair of the games' Board of Directors said he didn't even want the job in the first place. Poole (BE'54), a prominent businessman and real-estate developer, was approached by a headhunter in 2001 to lead the bid committee. The job description called for a high-energy, multi-lingual individual that loved to travel.

"I just want to be clear," Poole told the hiring panel, "I'm 68-yearsold and I hate travel. And when they asked me what I required for compensation, what would be your salary requirements? I said, there's not enough money in the world... It's been an incredible experience."

For Poole, this was an opportunity to give back to the community. He put his quiet life and golf game on hold to accept the job on one condition - he would only work for free.

He says one of the best experiences so far was being in the room in 2002 when the International Olympic Committee announced that Vancouver was chosen to host the 2010 games.

"It was kind of a numbing experience. To come that far knowing anything can happen. You don't dare believe that you might actually win. I didn't know how I would react, but when they announced that we'd won, every Canadian in the room went nuts!"

That was just the beginning of Poole's involvement with Vancouver 2010.

Growing up in the small town of Mortlach, SK, Poole enjoyed playing sports like hockey and baseball. He was even intramural wrestling champion during his time at the University of Saskatchewan.

After graduation, he and his wife, Darlene, moved to Calgary where he worked for a housing company. They moved to Vancouver in 1963. There, Poole co-founded Daon Development Corporation, which grew to become the second largest real estate development company in North America. In 1989, he co-founded VLC Properties (now Concert Properties) and sits as chair of Concert's Board of Directors.

The boy from Saskatchewan never imagined he'd be organizing the largest peacetime event any country gets to host.

"In life, very few things, good and bad, are in accordance of some plan. It tends to be a series of accidents and how you react to them."

Although Poole pays his own expenses, one of the perks of his job is observing Olympic games in other cities - Salt Lake City in 2002, Athens in 2004, Torino in 2006, and recently Beijing, which he says set a new standard for efficiency and planning.

"Each time you're overwhelmed by the number of people moving around," he says. "It always falls back to, how do you keep things on time? Beijing did it near perfectly because everything happened on time. The volunteers were so friendly and it just flowed. It was as near a perfect performance as you could imagine.

"We're not here to outdo Beijing. Our goal is to put on a very Canadian event - to showcase our commitment and love of sport. Now we're wondering what we possibly could have missed because we think we're in good shape, but we know that 18 months out, there is still lots of time for things to go wrong. We don't know what might happen that we might not know about. It's the unknowns that keep you up at night."

With so many athletes, fans, coaches and officials participating, Poole says the 1,000 employees and 25,000 volunteers are the keys to the games.

"Volunteers are what make it work, especially for the spectators. Those are the people they (spectators) will meet. Canadians have shown that there is no one better. We have a great reputation for hosting events. People still fondly remember the 1988 games in Calgary. It was wonderful."

By the end of the 2010 Olympics, it's estimated 3-4 billion people will have watched a portion of the games, either live or on television.

"To say we're excited is an understatement!"

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