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Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective

Episode 1 - Darren Hughes

In this week's episode, Darren Hughes joins host Christian Napier (recorded 27 March 2020).

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Christian Napier 0:10
Hello, everyone and welcome to the inaugural episode of the Salt Lake 2002 retrospective podcast which is a back of house look at the planning and delivery of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games, as told by the very people who organize them. I'm your host Christian Napier and before I introduce our very first guest, on our very first episode, I want to take a moment explain why I'm doing this podcast. 20 years ago, I joined the Salt Lake organizing committee or as it was commonly known by its acronym SLOC. Working on those Games changed my life. And since 2002, I've been operating in this major event space. The last five years, I've been working with the International Olympic Committee in the area of knowledge management with a focus on storytelling, and partly because of that, I recently have felt the need to tell the story of the Games that for me started at all, which were Salt Lake 2002. And that takes me to my first guest, the guest for this episode, Darren Hughes. Now, Darren interviewed me before I was hired by SLOC. And more than anyone he's responsible for my career in major events. And for the past 20 years, we've worked together on I don't know, dozens of projects, and I can't thank Darren enough for the influence he's had on my career and for his friendship. So Darren, welcome. How are you?

Darren Hughes 1:31
Wow. Thank you, Christian. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm good. I'm good. Thank you.

Christian Napier
And I assume that you're at home?

Darren Hughes
I am. So this Coronavirus has sort of taken us all off the road, hasn't it? So yes, normally I'm on the road a lot from moving from Games city to Games city. But yeah, I've been home for a few weeks now.

Christian Napier 1:43
That must feel a bit odd because sometimes your home like three days a month or something?

Darren Hughes 1:48
It is definitely yeah, well, you know, I'm used to working at home but not working at home for so many days in a row. So you still get the jet lag though, because you have to work you know, with the the time zones that the Games are being organized. And so still a little bit of adjustment. But yeah, we're okay.

Christian Napier 2:05
So none of the benefits and all of the drawbacks.

Darren Hughes 2:08
No frequent flyer miles.

Christian Napier 2:09
That's the worst part. No frequent flyer miles. But the most important question of the day I have for you is do you have enough toilet paper?

Darren Hughes 2:17
Um, fortunately, before it all got really ugly, we did stock up- not for this- but just you know, our monthly run to Costco. So we managed to do okay.

Christian Napier 2:26
So you're good for a month.

Darren Hughes 2:27

Christian Napier 2:28
So if I ran out a couple of weeks, I might come knock on your door.

Darren Hughes 2:31
Actually. I've been seeing on Twitter, somebody was posting funny messages. And one of them was they put a sign in their front yard that said please toilet paper us?

Christian Napier 2:40
But not right... Not during a rainstorm?

Darren Hughes 2:44
True, true, you need to be able to collect it afterwards.

Christian Napier 2:56
All right, Darren, well, let's get down to this. When we- before we start- Or to start I should say, why don't you describe for everybody what you did in the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Darren Hughes 3:07
Wow, I did all kinds of stuff. But I joined the organization in June of 1998. So a few months after the Nagano Games, but then obviously about three and a half years before the Salt Lake Games. And my role was Director of Human Resources, planning and operations, which in the Games today would be known as people management, sort of the looking after all of the different people aspects of the Games, everything from organizing, you know, figuring out how many people you need to organize the Games, to Games time workforce planning and how many volunteers you need, and to everything from uniform programs to figuring out how many hot dogs we could possibly serve.

Christian Napier 3:49
Oh, my gosh, the hot dogs, we'll come back to the hot dogs in a minute, the hot dogs and the Wahoos. But if I were if I were to sum up your job description in one sentence, it would be whatever Ed Eynon asked you to do.

Darren Hughes 4:03
That's right. So Ed Eynon was our senior vice president of human resources and international relations. And I was a bit of a right hand to him and he was an awesome mentor. But basically anything that came his way generally ended up going my way as well.

Christian Napier 4:16
And correct me if I'm wrong, but Ed was one of the reasons that you ended up getting to SLOC right. What was the journey like for you before the Games? How did you arrive at the Salt Lake organizing committee?

Darren Hughes 4:27
Yeah, so I was actually working for a company a lot of locals would have known called Matrix Marketing, which is the world's largest call center company, now called Convergence Corporation, based in Cincinnati, but at the time, we were growing leaps and bounds and acquiring other companies and essentially human resources. It was really at the core of that business with attrition rates of 150 to 200%. And, you know, 30,000 employees. So you're, you're actually, you know, recruiting constantly or, you know, replacing your workforce one or more times every year, so from a HR perspective is a great company to be in. And that's where Ed Eynon was. And that's I got to work for him for a few years there. And then he was invited to join the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. And through his whole interview process, it was sort of a package deal. He was involving me and making sure that I would be interested in coming along with him. And so he jumped ship first. And then a few months later, I was able to join him.

Christian Napier 5:26
I would say that, on behalf of me and my team, we're super grateful that you decided to jump ship and join him there. Because if it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't be there. So I'm glad that you decided to make that move. Now, when you first moved over to SLOC, were you in the Wells Fargo building? Or were you in the old building that was on 3rd or 4th South.

Darren Hughes 5:43
We were actually 257 East Second South. So the first building Yes, the old building, were telecom and the accreditation center were toward the end. Sorry, we were actually I had to correct myself. We were actually in the tower next to it, the one with the FBI in it. That was the very first building that Sixth Floor office space. So that's actually where I joined.

Christian Napier 6:00
Wow. Okay. So you, I mean, you go way back there. And yeah, I was just asking the question about the scandal. So you joined before the whole thing erupted there? You had to work through that. So how did that impact the work that you did?

Darren Hughes 6:14
You know, interestingly enough, I mean, everybody talks about the dark days during the bid scandal. And there, there was a lot of non productive time, I must say, where maybe we weren't actually planning on the Games, but we were reacting to, you know, public opinion, or the the changes organizationally. And so I was supporting some of that. But the days themselves didn't really seem all that dark. I didn't think that internally, we ever felt like we were going to lose the Games. What we were, of course, worried about was some of the people inside the organizing committee who may not make it all the way to Games. And you know, what sort of external pressures we might be facing, or, you know, kind of what impacts it might have on us going forward. But I have to say that the some of the the leaders before Mitt Romney arrived, before Fraser arrived, Frank Joklik actually was was great in terms of trying to manage that, that crisis and and then, of course, ultimately, sort of taking one for the team. And moving on to help transition the organization to be Games ready.

Christian Napier
Well, you mentioned some names there. Mitt, Fraser, Ed, kind of the big, the big names there. But when you look at the people that you worked with every day, oh, Who were some of the really interesting characters that you worked with there at SLOC?

Darren Hughes
Wow. Um, okay. So through the whole journey, there were many interesting people, I think of a couple of people who had, you know... The big characters who could play what we call the Games card, you've probably heard of that. So, you know, it's like, they carried that around in their wallet. Now, every time that, you know, some, some argument will come up, they would just say, Well, this is how we did it in previous Games. And, you know, the Tom Hallorans, and the Sharon Kingmans had, you know, just a multitude of experiences that they could share, but also big personalities and kind of, you know, a sense of confidence. So it was a fun and yet challenging to be around them. And then there were those sort of unique people who were leaders in the organization that were really fun to work with guys like Don Pritchard if you remember him from food services, or I really enjoyed working with Andrea Fraley, who was she ran the office management, which was a thankless job. But she did it, you know, with a smile and managed it very, very well.

Christian Napier 8:34
Well, I thought that floor that we worked on was a lot of fun from Steve Clark to Christian LaBarbara. And Carol Harris, and Darcy, and everybody there on that floor was just a lot of fun to be around every day.

Darren Hughes 8:45
Actually, it was a great setup. So the 13th floor, you know, we kind of got to pick that out ourselves a little bit since we were the office management people. And so we parked ourselves there, the HR and IR team across the hall from Mitt and the executives. And so it was a, you know, great place to be very central for the organization. And yeah, there were a lot of fun people, it was a great experience, probably the best work experience that I ever managed to have.

Christian Napier 9:07
I remember, I don't know if you recall this, but I remember after the Games were over, we kind of were sitting because we sat next to each other in the organizing committee in which we we spent an inordinate amount of time talking about none unimportant things, but I remember having the conversation after the Games were over with you, gosh, are we ever going to have is this the pinnacle of our career? Are we ever going to have an experience like this again? And in some respects, I have not, you know, it, it really was a fantastic experience for me.

Darren Hughes 9:40
I agree. I mean, that team environment, you know, we just, and part of it's because probably what you and I do in terms of working with organizing committees and you know, more of an advisory role versus a line management role, but there really was a unique environment there. And a real focus on you know, making these Games, our Olympic Games, too. So the athletes, they might train for six or eight hours a day, but you know, and they were working toward the Olympic Games, but we also had the sense that we were working 10/12/14 hours a day. But the Games, these were our Games, and this was going to be our Olympic performance as well. And if you remember, one of our corporate values was actually fun, too. So we did try to have a little bit of fun throughout that whole experience.

Christian Napier 10:23
I want to ask you a little bit about the uniform. And I want to ask you, because I still have the gloves, I still have the shoes, I still wear them to shovel snow, I still wear that hat. Give me the thought process behind the uniform its design, and what do you think when you walk around and you still see people today wearing uniform components that you were in charge of procuring and designing?

Darren Hughes 10:47
Well, interesting, you say. So we had just a recent meeting with our Salt Lake 2030/2034 bid effort, where we got the first meeting of the Board, and the folks from the museum up at Utah Olympic Park brought down the uniforms to it. And we had a good laugh with Jenny Wilson, who is mayor of Salt Lake County, and a few others, you know, just wrapped reminiscing about the colors, mountain shadow, and the different aspects of uniform design. Now that it's been a really long time, I'm willing to admit there were two designs, and the most of us really preferred one design. And let's say that the most senior leader of our organization preferred the other. And that's the one we got. So very bold, you know, lots of angles, very colorful. Um, but at the end of the day, you know, it's certainly striking and definitely was useful. And I think most everybody reflects on those uniforms as being really good. Again, quite loud. But you still see them out there today. And yeah, especially in the winter, and, you know, happy that other people are enjoying them

Christian Napier 11:51
Well now, I feel like maybe I shouldn't have admitted I've been wearing the gloves and the shoes and the hat'

Darren Hughes 11:54
It was subtle remember? Black with a nice logo with the jacket, mostly, but you know, because that was not a, you know, a small fashion statement.

Christian Napier 12:12
Okay, I gotta go- I gotta go in another direction here. You mentioned the hot dogs. How did we end up with the ubiquitous hot dogs and the Wahoos as our kind of food staples during the Games?

Darren Hughes 12:25
Well, as you probably remember, I, you know, we had Mitt and Fraser who were very frugal. And we were making every effort we could to maximize the value in kind that was available from sponsors, as well as providing, you know, a reasonable but not elaborate experience for our course members. So, in fact, I was talking to Don Pritchard the other day, and I'm probably going to quote him wrong, but it's something like 1.6 million hotdogs were distributed or, or consumed, I should say, during the Salt Lake 2002 Games and of the workforce that was probably a few hundred thousand of them. It's obviously a lot of spectators about them. But um, you know, they were, I guess, sort of a local highlight something reflective of our culinary traditions and use it, perhaps, but more importantly, they were easy to distribute and I guess filled people up the Wahoos, that's a whole different story, if you recall, we, we we often talk about after the Games, what do you do and you know, we had the remains of the Games, you know, all the stuff that doesn't get utilized that needs to be donated or sold off and, and I must say those Wahoos there were plenty of them, they were not the most popular product, I think, in fact, I don't think you can get them today. Right? They're not out there anymore.

Christian Napier 13:43
I have not seen them. I love the phrase the remains of the Games. It sounds a bit morbid, you know, the remains of the Games are hiding somewhere and someone's gonna dig them up and and resuscitate them.

Darren Hughes 13:57
There's probably a truckload of those Wahoos sitting somewhere in Utah with a you know, a half life of 1000 years so they're gonna be good through the coronaviruspandemicand beyond.

Christian Napier 14:07
I'm wondering on the hot dogs if the IOC will it... Should the Games be awarded to Salt Lake again? Will the IOC put a clause in the host city contract forbidding hot dogs as part of the food and beverage program?

Darren Hughes 14:21
So sadly, you know you're if you're familiar with the Games, the the IOC is trying to implement something called the New Norm, which is a you know, 118 different measures that are trying to reduce cost and complexity, or at least improve the value of the product. And one of those has to do with the the food and beverage that's offered to different stakeholder groups. And sadly, workforce is on the table for potential optimization. So for those of you who get to work for a future 2030 or 2034 Games in Salt Lake City, you may well be getting a lot of hot dogs again.

Christian Napier 14:54
Well, that's encouraging. Thanks.

Darren Hughes 14:57
Maybe we get our health insurance premiums as well.

Christian Napier 15:02
All right now doing the work of workforce planning and operations, that's not an easy job. I'm sure I know, you faced a lot of challenges. What were some of the big challenges that you faced? And what were some of the creative ways that you found to overcome those challenges?

Darren Hughes 15:18
Wow, well, um, I think in an organization like, you know, an OCOG, an organizing committee, you're constantly growing and changing. So from a staff management perspective, or I guess from an organizational design perspective, you're constantly dealing with, you know, do you have people in the right places? Do they report to the right leadership? You know, how can we kind of maximize the effectiveness of an organization and if you recall, there were very few offices in the in the SLOC headquarters, but in one of the offices, Ed Eynon's, he had a huge magnet board with the names of all the directors on it. And, you know, so that at a moment's notice, we just had them on magnets. So you could change the org structure every day, if you need to do or every few minutes, you could create pro formas of how, you know, you might change the organization. And, and we did a lot of that, if you recall, there were a lot of changes and promotions and moving people around, and, you know, aligning people with their talents. So- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, at some point, you need some stability, but making sure that we've got the right people in the right roles is actually you know, real strength of an organization and shows that they they are trying to prepare themselves through the evolution through the whole Games lifecycle for Games, we focused a lot on team building, because it's a real challenge for communications and and also for just onboarding new people and understanding, you know, the, what the Games are about, and this whole new language we speak and all the other craziness that comes with staging the Games, and you know, there were lots of fun little things that we did, I think that that made that a little more interesting. So if you remember the peak of the week? So on Wednesdays, you know, we would either focus on a functional area and what they do, and or we would, you know, look at a sport or, you know, we try to have mix education and fun and snacks, and, you know, donuts and everything else. But those kinds of things, as well as the other kinds of teams building that we had, you know, monthly all SLOC meetings. The quarterly team building budgets, if you recall, we got pretty wild with those, we've got that $50 per person per quarter. And I think you'll remember, we we really tried to max out what $50 could do for us, including taking us, you know, a flight to California and, and having a bit of fun and, and all that kind of stuff.

Christian Napier 17:32
Well, I thought that SLOC treated its employees very, very well. One of the great benefits that I found was the... What was it called? It was the program with the GM vehicles, you could lease the vehicle for like 150 bucks a month or so.

Darren Hughes 17:45
Exactly. Great deal.

Christian Napier 17:46
That was fantastic. Of course, I just- I had kids, so I was leasing minivans but-

Darren Hughes 17:51
That's okay. I had a Pontiac Aztek remember that one? Ugliest car that they ever made?

Christian Napier 17:55
Oh, yeah.

Darren Hughes 17:58
But I thought I thought that the HR group Ed and you and the team did a great job of taking care of the workforce, not only during our time there, but even exiting, we were all given bonuses for retention. And I thought that everybody treated us very, very well.

Darren Hughes 18:17
Yeah. And I think that was great. I mean, if Mitt and Ed and the rest of the leadership team really did a nice job of that focusing on, you know, the people and really understanding that they deliver the Games, yes, we need venues, and all that, but without this management team to make it happen, you know, it wouldn't be the same outcome.

Christian Napier 18:44
Well, do you have any humorous, entertaining or educational inspiring stories that you want to share?

Darren Hughes 18:53
Inspiring stories, you know probably some of them are a little bit cynical now that I've been in the Games since then, you know, because if you recall, there are all kinds of pressures on the organization as you grow everything from you know, office space, and you remember those little desks on wheels, you know, you could like pick up and move them around. And all the hype we had over those Aeron office chairs and you know that I mean, some of those things we wouldn't do again you know, we in fact what we were talking about for the next time was this thing is just a whole bunch of tables and chairs and you know, a big wide open Walmart type space people can get together and do what they need to do. I don't know, I- you know, it's it's funny when you're a resource owner like when you when you can provide people or or uniforms. These become bargaining chips in making things happen inside an organization. They become their own currency, so to speak, you know, okay, well, I'll exchange you 50 uniforms, if you get us five vehicles to, to you know, allow us to have operations work more smoothly or whatever is not that these are good things, but these things do happen inside an organization.

Christian Napier 20:00
Well, we'll we'll leave that one out of the lessons learned. No, just kidding.

Darren Hughes 20:06
Huh, good lessons I'll have to keep thinking, Oh, it was great.

Christian Napier 20:11
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed the experience there. And I've got memories of, you know, being presented with a situation where we had a very small budget to implement a lot of systems. And you and Ed were very, very supportive and helping us try to find solutions that would that would work and creative ways, you know, maybe engaging sponsors or things like this to to get those solutions over the line. And so very, very fond memories of those for me, and one of my fondest memories was Steve Clark, sending out an email referencing Milt Romney instead of Mitt.

Darren Hughes 20:44
The good news is he went on to have a very successful career. So he recovered well!

Christian Napier
That is the secret to success. Well, I always felt the day I joined SLOC. And I saw Steve, I'm like, okay, that he's going places.

Darren Hughes

Christian Napier 20:59
He was tremendously talented. And he was ambitious. And I mean, that in a good way, and certainly deserve everything that he achieved.

Darren Hughes 21:06
Well, I think we had I mean, not just Steve and Steve was amazing. But we also had a lot of other, you know, unsung heroes, and there were a lot of really talented people that were there. And, you know, the organizing committees, I don't always get to get the best talent, you know, they, they do tend to get people who are very ambitious, and who are willing to take on risk, and some of that, but often, you know, you don't have all these other compensation tools to reward people, you don't have big stock options and retirement plans, and, you know, very competitive compensation. So we have to do whatever we can to make the operations sorry, the the environment, you know, a really positive one, so that we can attract and retain the best talent.

Christian Napier 21:57
So, Darren, what have you been doing since the Games in Salt Lake ended? And how did those Games impact your personal and professional life?

Darren Hughes 22:04
Wow, well, I have to say, I probably owe my career to SLOC. And I was very fortunate after the Games, the IOC was looking for someone to run the OGKS, which is Olympic Games Knowledge Services, programs for the organizing committees, now called OGKM, or even IKL. But anyway, the IOC reached out to Fraser Bullock, and he recommended me and I was able to go and work in Switzerland for a few years after Salt Lake Games. And then since then, I've been able to be an advisor and work with almost all of the major events around the world be it the FIFA World Cup or an Olympic Games or the World Athletics Championships that are coming to the US. And it's been an amazing experience. And I really, I owe it to people like Fraser Bullock, and to Ed Eynon, who was such an amazing mentor in terms of the human resources, but also just general management.

Christian Napier 23:00
Well, I owe it to people like you. If it wasn't for you, if you weren't consistently bugging me about going to the amazing metropolis of Doha, to go work on the Asian Games due to your persistent efforts. Well, I tried to escape the orbit of the Olympic Games a couple of times, but I got pulled back in and you pulled me back into....

Darren Hughes 23:22
Kept sucking you back in yeah.

Christian Napier 23:24
Yeah, you pulled me back into this major event space. And so I also owe a lot to you. So thank you very much for keeping me involved in this space for so many years.

Darren Hughes 23:35
Well, you're too kind. We've done some really fun projects over the last few years, haven't we everything from an Olympic bid to, you know, a Commonwealth Games to Equestrian Games to, as you mentioned, Asian Games, so all kinds of different things?

Christian Napier 23:48
Well, they are fun now, as we look back in time, sometimes during...

Darren Hughes
Yeah, when you're in the throes of it, it doesn't feel all that fun. But when you look back with rose colored glasses, everything looked like it was a lot of fun. And truly, it was.

Christian Napier
Well, I'm sure we could spend hours, just chatting up all the memories and everything. But I don't want to take up all your time, because I know you're very, very busy. And you also work around the clock 24/7 accommodating your clients in Asia and Europe, as well as here in North America. So to wrap up, I've got three assignments for you. One has to do with music and another one has to do with food. And then I'm going to ask you for your favorite Olympic memories. So I'm going to start with the music. So as you look back over your time there in the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, can you name a song or a group that you listen to back then that when you hear it today, it really brings back the memories of working at SLOC?

Darren Hughes 24:48
Wow, so um, I was a huge or I guess I still am a huge fan of Barenaked Ladies and they came to the Olympic Plaza, or sorry, the Medals Plaza during the Games and so I -- You may not recall, but I had to make sure I had that night off and that we each got two tickets to, you know, attend the Medals Plaza. If you remember, I had to make sure that those were my tickets. So I Barenaked Ladies was great. They did a fantastic job in in concert. And I'd say maybe the song was Pinch Me, the one that I think of when I hear it. I think back to that day.

Christian Napier 25:19
That's an excellent memory. I remember going to see them. I took my wife, Lynn, and Lynn and I went and saw Barenaked Ladies as well. And we had a blast there and they were a lot of fun to see. So that's a great, that's a great song. We are creating a playlist, which we'll put on Spotify. I'm calling it Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective. And as we go through all of these interviews, I'm going to take the songs that everybody nominates, I'm going to put them on the playlist and that's just a way that everybody can listen to what everybody else was listening to back then. Okay, now here comes that really difficult topic. As you recall, we would spend probably a good two to three hours every morning just talking about what we were going to eat for lunch.

Darren Hughes 25:59
Absolutely. It was our team priority. Every morning. We that was our first meeting, right?

Christian Napier 26:03
Yeah, that was that was the daily staff meeting. We had to we had to do the the lunch thing. We had to make that big decision. It was so difficult, but so important. So with that in mind, what was your favorite restaurant to go to for lunch? I guess it could be the dinner as well. But lunch... if you think about those times in Salt Lake? Where did you want to go to lunch the most?

Darren Hughes 26:24
Wow. Well, since I'm the first interview, I'm going to get to choose Crown Burger, just up the street from the offices. And that's maybe it obviously it was great and Crown Burger still is great. But it was close as well. And you know, you could always go for a pastrami. What was it called? Pastrami burger. Yeah. And onion rings. Very healthy. Like-

Christian Napier 26:44
Yeah, Crown Burger is so good. I love the bacon cheeseburger, at Crown Burger. It is delicious. I love the onion rings there. That should be the food of the Games not hot dogs. But if you want a Utah staple, there's got to be the burgers because you've got Crown Burger, you've got Hires, and there are a whole bunch of burger places now. But those were kind of the staples back in the day. Great choice with Crown Burger.

Darren Hughes 27:06
These were not healthy times for us, though. If I recall, you were bringing doughnuts in almost every other day as well. And then we were going to Crown Burger. So definitely not the you know, healthiest lifestyle.

Christian Napier 27:16
That's right. The 2002 Games happened right around the time that the Krispy Kreme craze arrived in Utah. And there were lines going into those restaurants almost all day long to buy these doughnuts. And Ed asked me to bring, because I lived close to the Krispy Kreme in Fort Union. He asked me to bring two dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts every day after the Games were over. And so yeah, I was making a lot of Krispy Kreme donut runs. So that just shows you the importance and the essential nature of my work with Salt Lake 2002. Without me you would have not had Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Darren Hughes 27:51
Yeah, I think you did a few more things than that. But yes.

Christian Napier 27:53
Ah maybe just a bit. Okay to take us out. What was your favorite Olympic memory? Now you talked about Barenaked Ladies during the Games. But did you have any other memories, either of competitions or something that happened in the back of house or behind the scenes? What was your favorite memory of those Games?

Darren Hughes 28:13
Wow, well, um, there were so many great, you know, memories during the Games. And if you recall, because we had pretty smooth operations. And we'd done a fairly decent job of planning, we actually had a lot of fun during the Games. So we got out a lot. However, I think one of my favorite, personally, one of my favorite moments was actually not during the Games. It was before. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with the Torch Relay for a few days, and got to take my wife with me as well. And I think my favorite moment was being able to run the Olympic Torch in Arbor Day Park in Nebraska City, Nebraska. So a couple of weeks before the Games, I guess it was and you know, not that there are many people hanging out in Arbor Day Park at the time in the middle of January. But I still you know that that that feeling that you're helping to bring the flame home to Salt Lake City was was pretty cool.

Christian Napier
Well, yeah, normally, I don't know if I would necessarily advocate for Nebraska as a destination. But in this context, absolutely. What a great opportunity really to participate in the Torch Relay. For me, I mean, I had a lot of great memories too. And you're right, things were organized smoothly. That was a real credit to your team. And I remember on the technology side, you know, we spent a few days manning the phones or actually just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring and it never did. So we decided, well, let's just go have a good time. But I think for me, the favorite memory is driving to the office early in the morning. It's still dark outside. I'm going down I 15 and looking on the hill above the University of Utah and seeing the rings lit up on the mountain. To this day. It gives me goosebumps to just think about those rings there. And I would just catch myself and say, "You know I'm actually working this I'm actually working on the Olympic Games. I'm working on this event these rings that the entire world is seeing I'm a small part of that". And for me, that was that was a wonderful memory.

Darren Hughes
That's great. You talk about goosegumps- goosebumps, excuse me, you know, you and I have been able to go to a lot of Olympic Games since and the times they still give me goosebumps today is getting to go to the opening ceremony with the locals forget about all the internationals and you know, IOC staff and others that get to go, but it's really more fun to sit with somebody who's put in those two or three years of effort, you know, and getting the chance to either see that dress rehearsal or the real opening ceremony. And that sense of pride they get in the way their eyes light up and stuff. That's the stuff that still gets me really excited. Because otherwise it can become easy to become a bit cynical in this business or not cynical, but you know, just to ehhh, you know, it's just a job like any other job, but those moments are really ones that you revive my excitement and enthusiasm about working and doing what I do.

Christian Napier 30:51
Well, there's something really special about organizing the Games in your home country or your home town. And those moments, you're talking about sitting with the locals as they watch the opening ceremonies, it gives you that appreciation for what it's like, as a local to participate in the joy of the Games. And you're right. If you've done it a few times, then you're like, Okay, there's a bit of been there, done that and you can be a bit jaded or cynical. But for me, that all washes away when I see the the locals just really absorbing all of that, all of that joy that the Games can bring. Alright, Darren, well, thanks for taking us down a well I guess giving us a short stroll down memory lane. I really appreciate you taking the time. If people are interested in catching up with you and learning more about what you're doing in the major event space these days. How would they do that?

Darren Hughes 31:45
Yeah, um, I get to help all of the organizing committees and the IOC right now. So it's a lot of fun. Um, you can always email me at

Christian Napier 31:54 Perfect. Darren, thank you again, so much for the time. I really appreciate it and stay safe.

Darren Hughes 32:01
Thank you. It's a pleasure. And let's do this again in 2030.

Christian Napier 32:04
Sounds like a plan.

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