Jack Farley and the Power of Thinking Big.


April 1st, 2021

Jack Farley liked to think big.

That’s how he saw a future for the BC Sports Hall of Fame at BC Place. It is why he was among those who advocated for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. And it’s why he would have been “all in” behind a second Olympics and Paralympics bid for 2030.

That bid is in its earliest stages and it is one that will only receive further serious consideration by the Canadian Olympic Committee once we are beyond the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Yet as an outcome of deliberations yesterday at the City Hall of Vancouver, it is at least an idea that the majority of city councilors seem to be embracing as one worth further discovery and exploration. All that’s been committed to is essentially an expression of interest and, ultimately, an evaluation of the pros and cons of having hosted Vancouver 2010 and that won’t happen until it has to, so to speak, sometime in 2022.

What is notable, however, is that the City of Vancouver staff report presented to council on Wednesday reminded all of us of the confidence that was placed in Vancouver and Whistler as hosts 11 years ago. It also underscored that prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic just over a year ago, the Canadian Olympic Committee viewed the Greater Vancouver region as “the strongest candidate (in Canada) for a future Winter Olympic Games based on a set of evaluation factors.” The majority of Vancouver councilors seem to want to build on that position of strength.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work – and persuasion – to be done to mount a successful bid to host the world again in 2030. There is plenty of that ahead if the three levels of government and the Canadian Olympic Committee (along with the Canadian Paralympic Committee) align with each other and decide to give it another kick at the can.

That’s where the memory of Jack Farley is instructive for all of us who are proud to be part of the sport system in British Columbia.

Jack in his prime would be lending his voice to the huge intrinsic benefits of another Olympic and Paralympic bid. He would be lining up his vast network of business and community leaders to ensure that no stone was left unturned when it came to building a strong coalition of support behind Vancouver 2030. He would also almost certainly be among those putting his money where his mouth was. Based on his track record in making the move of the BC Sports Hall of Fame to BC Place possible – Jack would be first in line to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk.

That is only one of the many reasons why Jack Farley and his wise, friendly and constructive counsel will be sorely missed when it comes time to promote a sequel of the monumental sport and community builder that Vancouver 2010 was throughout the early 2000s and into the afterglow of Canada’s biggest and best ever Olympic performance.

Jack passed away last week at the age of 88. The sense of loss felt by his wife Nancy, the Farley family and his extended network of friends and associates – including the former Chairs who are part of the Council of Chairs — was palpable. Yet it was a sense of loss felt by the BC sport community as a whole. There was barely a sport organization in B.C. that wasn’t somehow, some way touched by the community advocacy that defined Jack.

He was that special of a guy. And the BC sport system is richer on the strength of all of his contributions, wearing multiple hats of leadership throughout the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s.

Jack was a pillar of the BC Lions family and a strong booster of the Canadian Football League. He served as Team President, was on the Leos’ executive and was a Grey Cup Festival Chair. He was an ardent supporter of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, as a Trustee for 24 years and as Chair from 1991-1993. His leadership transformed the Sports Hall — and other drivers of sport history, heritage and culture across high school, varsity and professional sport – and deservedly earned him his place as an Honoured Member in the Class of 1996.

He was all of that – and more (see the special tribute to Jack from our curator Jason Beck at www.bcsportshall.com).

As all of those especially close to Jack grieve his loss, it’s also a time to celebrate everything that he did for the Lions, the Sports Hall and the sport system overall. It’s a time to be appreciative of his many contributions, thankful of our present and confident about our future. Jack would want nothing less than that. He would be smiling that big Farley smile at the thought of another Olympics and Paralympics in B.C. All of us directly and indirectly involved in considering, developing and earning that Vancouver 2030 opportunity should take great inspiration from the work of Jack Farley.

There was only one path forward for him: Thinking BIG. The best way to honour Jack in the weeks, months and years to come is to borrow from his playbook and think big in everything we do. If we are so inspired, everything else will fall into place. And in Farley fashion, it will be a golden place.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.