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John Furlong, Rugby Canada bid to host international event in Vancouver

Rugby Canada has submitted a bid to hold a major international competition in Vancouver – a process that was co-chaired by 2010 Winter Olympics head John Furlong.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Rugby Canada has submitted a bid to hold a major international competition in Vancouver – a process that was co-chaired by 2010 Winter Olympics head John Furlong.

Mr. Furlong – who has made few public appearances since he was accused of assaulting students when he was a physical-education teacher in a small B.C. community four decades ago – called it an honour to work on the bid and again help elevate Vancouver and Canada onto the world sporting stage.

"I don't know whether it was being in the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time. When [Rugby Canada] asked me, I had never anticipated doing another one," Mr. Furlong said of the bid at a Wednesday news conference. "… So when they asked me, my interest was more, 'Do you want to win?'"

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Rugby Canada is bidding to be one of the 10 stops on the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series, starting in 2016. Its bid includes a video with appearances from Premier Christy Clark, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Man in Motion Rick Hansen and Mr. Furlong, among many others.

The International Rugby Board's decision is expected later this year. If Rugby Canada is successful, the first Vancouver event – to be held at B.C. Place Stadium – would serve as a tuneup for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Mr. Robertson, who was at Wednesday's news conference and is a former rugby player, said Mr. Furlong has experience in the bidding process and it was important to put the best possible bid together.

Steve Thomson, the provincial forests minister who also played rugby in his younger days, also touted the experience Mr. Furlong brought to the bid team.

Both Mr. Robertson and Mr. Thomson declined to discuss the allegations in the lawsuits against Mr. Furlong.

Gareth Rees, Mr. Furlong's co-chair, said the former Olympic boss's character and knowledge made him an ideal fit.

Allegations that Mr. Furlong physically abused several aboriginal students when he was a teacher first surfaced in September, 2012, in the alternative weekly newspaper the Georgia Straight. Mr. Furlong has filed a lawsuit against the freelance journalist who wrote the piece. He filed, but later dropped his lawsuit against the paper itself.

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None of the allegations have been proven and Mr. Furlong has consistently and vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Three people who say they were Mr. Furlong's students at Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School in Burns Lake, B.C., have filed lawsuits against him. The three allege Mr. Furlong sexually assaulted them.

Laura Robinson, the journalist who wrote the 2012 piece, has filed a countersuit against Mr. Furlong, alleging his response to the story defamed her.

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