VANCOUVER — A day after the start of the historic torch relay that counts down to the 2010 Winter Games, the man who got Vancouver’s Olympic clock ticking has died.
Jack Poole, chairman of the board of directors for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, died Friday after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, Vancouver Olympic organizers said.
“It was his exceptional spirit and wise leadership that saw Vancouver win the Games and that has put the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee in such a strong position today,” said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee in a statement.
“At the opening ceremony of the Games next February, we will all have a thought for Jack, as the Games that he dreamt about and built finally become a reality.”
Building communities, literally and figuratively, was Poole’s passion.
Poole was born in the small town of Mortlach, Sask., in 1933 and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a bachelor of science in civil engineering.
His first company, Daon Development, was in its heyday the second-largest real estate investment firm in North America.
In 1989, Poole co-founded VLC Properties, now known as Concert Properties, one of Vancouver’s most prominent development companies.
Concert Properties CEO David Podmore said Poole never forgot his roots, and though his father was an alcoholic, he instilled in his son a good work ethic.
As a private person, Poole didn’t talk much about the tough times, Podmore said.
But the small community left a great impression on the man who learned early on that mutual respect goes hand in hand with building a business or a friendship.
“I think it gave him a real drive that has carried him through his life to move forward, at the same time treating people with intregrity and in a reasonable manner.
It’s the way he treats people that most defines Jack.”
Poole’s integrity, fairness and loyalty are what stood out most for Podmore, for whom the greatest asset from the business relationship was an enduring friendship.
When a business decision didn’t work out as expected, Podmore said Poole spent only a few minutes talking about the negatives before moving on and never mentioning the subject again.
“We’ve never ever had a dispute between us,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that we didn’t disagree on some things but always in a very civil, very refined way we resolved anything that we didn’t see eye to eye on. I don’t think many people can say they’ve had partnerships like that, where they haven’t had some upsets.”
Poole’s death came only hours after the Olympic flame was lit in Olympia, Greece and his absence was noted by several dignitaries, including Rogge, who paid tribute to him in his speech.
Later, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee phoned Poole to share what he had missed.
“Jack was extremely moved by the day and truly felt he had come as close to being there as possible,” John Furlong said in a statement.
“I am so grateful I was able to share that with him and truly believe that Jack was then ready to say goodbye and passed away at the close of that same day.”
Poole was asked to run the committee bidding for the 2010 Games back in 2001.
His businessman and friend Peter Brown said he recommended Poole, because of his reputation as “a big project guy” with a talent for bringing people together.
“It would be hard to find a better appointment than Jack Poole,” said Brown, founder and chairman of investment firm Canaccord Capital.
After Vancouver won the Games in 2003, Poole was appointed chairman of the 20-member board overseeing the committee known as VANOC.
“I think the Games will nevertheless bear his stamp and he will always be identified with their successful delivery, as he was with winning them in the first place,” said Richard Pound, a member of the board of directors, in an email to The Canadian Press.
“I am sure that the whole community and VANOC in particular will work even harder to make Jack proud. ”
Brown described him as a highly motivational mentor whose pragmatic advice launched many careers.
“There are a lot of very successful people in this town who I would say articled with Jack Poole,” he said, adding Poole continued to support people when they made mistakes and was someone who freely talked about his own missteps in the business world.
Poole was also a noted philanthropist.
In January, he had a robot named after him at Vancouver General Hospital after he donated most of the $6.5 million to buy the machine and build an operating room for it.
“Jack Poole was a giant in every way and a close personal friend. Our community has lost a citizen of tremendous leadership and generosity and who helped shape the city and province we have today,” said B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, in a statement.
“I will miss him deeply. To his wife Darlene and the whole Poole family, we thank you for sharing him with us for so many years.”
Poole was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007 and in July of 2009, he sought radical treatment at a Seattle hospital that uses an aggressive combination of both chemotherapy and radiation.
He had survived prostate cancer decades earlier.
Poole was 76.
He was recipient of many honours for his work in the community and business world, including the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
His is survived by his wife Darlene and five children.