IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective
Episode 55 - Silvana and Robert Richardson
Professors Silvana and Robert Richardson join the Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective podcast in a special extended CURLING episode (recorded 28 July 2020).
Christian Napier 0:11
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective podcast 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 organized them. I'm Christian Napier and today I'm really excited because we get to dive into the sport of curling, which we haven't talked about before on this podcast with Robert and Silvana Richardson, who both worked out at the curling venue in Ogden, Utah. Robert and Silvana thank you so much for coming on to our podcast. How are you?
Robert Richardson 0:43
Silvana Richardson 0:44
I'm great. Doing well. These days.
Christian Napier 0:46
Wonderful. Wonderful. Why don't you tell us where you're joining us from?
Robert Richardson 0:49
We are in Wisconsin, on the west coast, which is right adjacent to the Mississippi River in a town called La Crosse. We have three colleges here and some industry, but I think it's kind of medical and education that drive our economy.
Christian Napier 1:11
All right. Well, speaking of economy, everybody's economy is a bit weird and wonky right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. So how has COVID affected your particular area, your neck of the woods?
Silvana Richardson 1:23
We were really very, very strict when we locked down in March. And so we really had few cases, no deaths, hospitalizations were low. I would say in the last three weeks, we've kind of spiked a little bit. So you know, as we opened up, so we're looking at a severe state of affairs at the moment. So a lot more of us are looking at. How do we prevent things from happening in the future?
Christian Napier 1:54
Yeah, we're at a we're in a situation here where we didn't have much going on in March and April and May everything was pretty calm. Then we all got arrogant, or a bit careless. And Memorial Day weekend comes and we're all having a lot of fun. And summer's here and let's go play. And now we have a lot of COVID running around the state of Utah. And everybody's trying to figure out what we're going to do with school and all that kind of stuff. Well, aside from COVID craziness. What else are you guys up to these days in La Crosse, Wisconsin?
Robert Richardson 2:26
Well, I retired after 43 years of teaching. I retired at the very end of 2009. So since then, I've been working in a great place, a financial institution, and I have a title of director of first impressions. So that works quite well for me. And I really, really enjoy my work. Now that leads me to say something connected to the Olympics. Last year, I had an opportunity to work with Michael Hopkins, who's part of the Utah Olympic Legacy foundation. Turns out Michael was originally from Wisconsin, but that's a separate part of the story. So he and I worked together to plan a gold day, a past event for my board of directors and some executives who were on retreat in Park City. And we had a great time up at the Utah Olympic Park. Michael did a great job. And we were able to provide the context to all the Olympic venues the the bigger picture than Park City. But then we had that great day at the park with all those wonderful activities they have up there as part of the legacy. So that's part of that. I'm also totally involved with the lacrosse curling club. And we are an arena curling club. And I'll get back to that later. So I serve as Secretary of the board. And I'm the lead instructor working with middle school recreation programs, high school PE and physics classes, who are studying if you will, curling and then collegiate intermurals. And I just wanted to add that when I'm teaching anything about the Olympics, I try to go all the way back to here to Coubertin who had the vision for the Olympics, and how way back then in the 1800s he was envisioning sport, in its relation to culture and environment and had a great vision and that vision is still part of the Games and that makes me so admiring of that continuation. Silvana?
Silvana Richardson 4:49
So what have I been doing? I have had many years in nursing and education. And currently I'm teaching full time as a professor in a small private university here in La Crosse. I retired in 2014 from being the Dean of the program, but now I'm teaching Public Health Nursing. And we certainly had a, an example of a case study to work with this past semester with COVID-19. So we're preparing right now, how our public health students can be helping the community as well as our campus with screening and testing and, you know, really trying to prevent the spread of COVID. And I also teach a class in mind body therapies. And actually, during the year of the Olympics, I was a visiting scholar at the University of Utah, actually studying mind body therapies with some of the physicians at the VA Medical Center and a professor at Westminster. So I kind of had dual work going on during that year. So right now, it's preparing for the new school year.
Christian Napier 6:01
All right, well, there's a lot to unpack there. I want to talk about so many of the different aspects that you talked about, which is great. And we'll get to a lot of that through the podcast. But I have to come back to one thing that just really struck me. Director of first impressions, what does the director of first impressions do, and who came up with the title?
Robert Richardson 6:20
My supervisor, who's the Vice President, Senior Vice President of administration, came up with the title. And so in our headquarters, you would find me at the center core of the headquarters. If you came in, I would know that you're there to meet the president, I would have known in advance what you needed. If you had anything like maybe some technology needs. Or perhaps if you were coming in for lunch, that you had a special diet or whatever, I'd make sure that was all set and ready for you, I'd be able to greet you when you came in with Christian, it's so good to meet you. And so glad that you're here, just like you did for us, you knew we were coming, you knew my name, give us a welcome. And that gets you right connected with the president or whomever else you were visiting with. I would want to say also that my job would say I give as great a greeting to the UPS driver, to the mail courier, to anybody who comes in so that I am the face of our institution. And when you walk out you go, that was nice. Oh, the other thing, when you walked in right behind me on a big monitor would be a welcome in lights. So your name is in lights, and you feel real good.
Christian Napier 7:48
All right. Well, I like that director of first impressions, because hopefully that leaves a lasting impression on the clients. Right. So that's fantastic. And then Silvana, I want to come back to something you said about preparing for the school year, here with COVID and everything. Tell me a little bit about those preparations, what kinds of mitigation strategies and social distancing and hygiene and all that kind of stuff are people putting into place or planning on putting into place or discussing what they're going to be putting into place in your area?
Silvana Richardson 8:17
Well, as professors, we have, I would, what I call Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. So we've prepared completely online, we've prepared hybrid so that students are there half the time, and online half the time, and then, you know, very hopeful, but it probably won't happen that we would be, you know, back to the classroom and my students back in clinical, all of the classrooms will be socially distanced. And students will be tested when they come to the University, they'll be do a self screening with an app on their phone, to see if they have any symptoms. And now those would be reported. Everyone has to wear a mask, there's a lot of cleaning and sanitation that's been going on all summer long. In the residence halls, the rooms will be as much as possible one per room at the most to, and students would have to agree to that. I think even the eating in the cafeteria will be by you know, so many students would be going at a time. So and I'm sure that there's more that will be coming up that we have to think about, and a lot of education and I think especially peer teaching, so that students would be really talking with each other about the importance of doing all of these things and keeping themselves safe. We know that college students, you know, want to socialize. I mean, we all want to socialize and we do have quite a bar scene here in La Crosse. So that'll be a big piece of it. You know, helping students to understand. And the importance of that social distancing. So I think we got a few challenges ahead of us. But I think we can make it work.
Christian Napier 10:06
Well, I appreciate the optimism because we could use a dose of that right now. My daughter is at the university, she's studying at the University of Utah. And they're still trying to figure things out as well. They, she has some that are online and a couple of hybrids and one that's, it's a dance class, which is still an in person kind of a thing. It's an elective, but the social aspects of college life and also interacting in person with professors. Very important to her. And it's hard to do when when they're all online and distance.
Silvana Richardson 10:40
Absolutely. And and I think for us in nursing is the piece of figuring out how do we have -- How do our partnerships work with not only hospitals, but also community agencies, so that they feel comfortable enough to say, Yes, we can take on a student and keep our patients safe, as well as keep them safe. And that's what we're working out actually, this afternoon as we speak.
Robert Richardson 11:07
I just wanted to add that just last night, we're the largest school district for about a two hour drive in any direction. And the school district just announced that they're opening totally online, so that then they wanted to give teachers this month to get that already. So that's why they went ahead with that decision.
Christian Napier 11:38
Wow, unprecedented times we live in no doubt. I could not imagine that this would be happening. But here we are. And we're trying to make the best of it is true. Okay. Now, let's get back to curling. Robert, from what you said, it sounds like you've been involved in this sport a long time. I don't know, Silvana, if you've been involved in it, as well, for many, many years. Curling is a great sport for couples, I imagine. But why don't you give us a little bit about the background that you have in the sport, and how that eventually led you to Salt Lake.
Robert Richardson 12:12
You mentioned something that I guess we haven't thought about talking. But I arrived in La Crosse to take a professor position at University at UW. Well, in September of 1990. And Silvana didn't think that I was going to like working in this little town. We're originally from Chicago. And when we finished our doctoral degrees, we took positions out in New England, and lived in Providence, Rhode Island, again, an urban environment. So she stayed in Rhode Island, while I came out here for a really great teaching position. Well, then, in those days, there wasn't computers and those kinds of things. So we talked every Sunday night on the phone, and I was just raving about everything here. Just we have a great Oktoberfest celebration. And tied with the Oktoberfest celebration was an open house at the curling club. And everybody said, well, you seem to say you like these winter sports, why don't you do curling? I didn't even know what it was. I had no idea. Retrospectively, it turns out that where we both lived in Chicago, there was a curling club nearby. But it was affiliated with a country club and we didn't have the means to be a member of the country club. So we didn't know anything about it. And never even wondered, I don't think about it. So okay, I didn't have anything to do and my wife's out in Rhode Island, and I'm here so I'll go out and try this curling. Well they were wonderfully welcoming. Curling is as much an intellectual sport as it is a physical sport. I really liked that combination. They put me that -- they gave me some lessons. And then kind of our tradition is you'd have a three person team and you'd take a new person onto that team. And those three other people become your regular coaches. So I got better kind of quickly. Back to Silvana, she finally made a trip out at the very beginning of November that year, to visit me and I arranged for her to have a little conversation with the Dean of nursing over at her college. And while she was here -- so she arrived we had a great snowstorm in progress. It was wonderful. And then she met this Dean. Following the meeting with the Dean, my department had a big potluck lunch, to welcome er. So I think there were about 35 people at the lunch. She got to meet everybody I worked with. And it turns out the Dean in that conversation offered her a position to start in January. So she came out. And I didn't tell her this. I believe she arrived on a Wednesday. And then it was a day or two later that I said, and on Sunday night, you and I will be curling in the mixed league. And she said, I don't know what -- I don't know how to curl. We'll teach how to curl.
Silvana Richardson 15:36
So that Sunday, I went to curl and I am not an athlete at all by any means. But we had very patient teachers. And so I got hooked just as much as Robert on doing mixed curling every Sunday, and enjoying the sport just as much as the social hour afterwards, which is really a big part of the sport as well. So yeah, we both got hooked.
Robert Richardson 16:05
I didn't tell her that our teammates the male part of our teammates on was a world champion curlers in advance. I didn't tell her that. So he really did and his wife did a great job working with us. So then I stayed on in leagues with men's league and then in the mixed leagues, and where we're at now, our curling club for financial and structural reasons in our building, closed in 1998. And so our stones were put in storage. And then in 2010, nine, we reopened as an arena curling club. So we had to build our membership base from scratch. A small group of us, and with these old stones that were in great shape, and we are now a five league a week operation. We have youth curlers, high school curlers, college curlers, and all curlers, senior curlers, we've got the full gamut. And we're in the process that's on hold because of the COVID response of building our own facility here in town that will be dedicated ice for curling. Arena ice for curling is a challenge because the Zamboni doesn't work well for us. Curling needs flat ice and the Zamboni when it goes around and around in the same exact directions all week long. After every hockey practice figure skating practice game, it makes a bowl out of the ice. Now you wouldn't really see it as a spectator, you wouldn't know. Hockey players don't realize it, figure skaters don't realize it. But if you get any kind of bowl in the ice for curling, the stone will follow the gravitational pull toward the center. And that makes your shot really challenging to complete. But we work with it, we work with it. And that's why we would move toward our own building that we call dedicated ice. So coming into present tense, my curling team was selected to compete in the 2020 Arena national curling championships that had been scheduled for Gillette, Wyoming in May. Obviously, that got cancelled. So this isn't true for all teams. But our team was then deferred so that we will compete in the 2021 Arena national curling championships now scheduled for Worcester, Massachusetts in May. And I'm really excited to talk about my team. It's a great team. Our lead is a 15 year old high school sophomore. I'm the second on the team and I'm clearly not as young as these other people that I'm describing. Our vice skip is a 30 year old specialist in information technology. And our skip is a brand new high school graduate who's a guy who works in construction and that's what he wants to do for his career. But he can see angles. He can see, he understands velocity. He can call shots better than anybody We know. So that's our team going off to national championships next year.
Christian Napier 20:11
Oh, that's fantastic. And I love the idea that curling is a sport that really just about anybody can participate in. I think that's wonderful. You mentioned there, Robert, that the league kind of shut down in 1998. Was it at that point that you ended up coming out to Salt Lake? Was it sometime before then or after?
Robert Richardson 20:28
So thank you. My story with the Olympics is really our story. And when they were announced in 1995, that Salt Lake City got the Games, we put together our plan to to be significantly involved, we did not want to be spectators. A side story would say that in 1970, I started in the sport of luge. So in other words, we're Chicago based, I would travel to Lake Placid, New York to do any training and competing. And then come on back. There's one story where I ended up breaking my arm when I hit a wall pretty hard. And I didn't want to spend any more time in Lake Placid because I needed to come back to teach. So with this broken arm, it was cold enough that I pressed it up the window or the car and drove 17 hours home. And my wife was able to kind of put me back together enough to be able to go to teach before I had other treatment. But that's a whole different story. So let's talk about the first part, which was getting our condo.
Silvana Richardson 21:52
So since you know, we really both wanted to be as involved as possible. And we also have family in the Salt Lake area. So there's another incentive for us to look for a condo. So the summer of 97, I think it was I started searching for a condo while Robert was at his fraternity convention and really looked everywhere for some type of housing and finally found something but not until after Robert returned from his convention. So we purchased a condo and that kind of became our Salt Lake City home base. But it was Robert who really pursued the involvement.
Robert Richardson 22:39
So it turns out that without knowing it, the condo that Silvana selected was at 500 East and 100 South, right on the edge of downtown Salt Lake, which resulted in being two blocks from what was then SLOC headquarters. I believe that was at 300 East and 200 south. So we were pretty close to that. And I went knocking on the door. And it was really a ring bell. I rang the bell, and a voice came through the speaker box. May I help you? Yes, I'm here. I'd like to be involved with the Olympics and I remember her laughing and going, You and 10,000 other people. And there was this pause and I thought, Okay, I've got to sell myself a little bit here. And I said, Well, it might be of interest to you that I am a slider. I compete in luge, and I'm a curler and I compete in curling. And there was this long pause. I remember once or twice going, Hello. Are you there? Hello. Because there was just this long pause. Finally, she said just a moment. And the head of sport came to the door and opened the door just a little bit and said, Tell me more about curling. Now I thought they were going to ask about luge because there's so many people who were involved with luge. At that time not very many people were involved with curling so but I thought they'd talk about luge. And so I talked about everything I've shared with you with curling, you know at the time and getting everything together. So they let me come in and I was taken on as a volunteer consultant.
Robert Richardson 24:42
The problem was they had a sport manager, Amy Preston, and Amy's still lives in the area. She lives up in Park City, and she was a national champion gymnast who had just completed her time at the University of Utah. Sport minded, she understood elite sport, etc. She'd never curled, and she'd never seen curling, she didn't know much about it. So I was going to help with some of those clarifications. And I was also going to be a significant contact and reference point for her. So one of those reference points would be getting the assistant sport manager. And I recommended Lisa Schoeneberg, who lived in Madison, Wisconsin. But she herself had been a curling Athlete of the Year four times. She competed in the 1988 Olympic Games when curling was a demo sport. And then she curled again in the 1998 Games. But so this is right at that junction when she's going to do that. And so Amy met Lisa and Lisa met the other people she needed to meet in the interview process. And she was hired on as the assistant sport manager then. With that, I was elevated off of volunteer consultant to staff and I was given the title of sport administrator for curling. And then part of my job was multifold that in that whole thing, among them was working in that two storey building on the corner. Then we moved to the 13 storey. It was a three storey building on the corner, 13 storey building next to us, and then eventually to the Wells Fargo building. So things kept expanding with staff. What had to happen with us was good, a lot of volunteers, we had to teach from scratch a lot of people in Utah how to curl.
Christian Napier 27:05
I want to get to that in a second here, Robert. And before I do, what happens with the professorships, so you both are teaching at universities. Now you're getting involved with these Salt Lake 2002 Games? Do you have to quit your jobs? Or are you able to take a sabbatical? I mean, what is it that what's the situation with the with the work between Wisconsin and with Utah?
Silvana Richardson 27:30
Great question. So I wanted to be involved somehow and knew that the best way for me to do so would be to apply to be a volunteer on the medical team. So I did that with my, you know, background as a nurse and I had also been in the naval reserves. So I had a little broader experience than just, you know, hospital nursing. And I was accepted to be part of the medical team. But you're right, then I had to figure out how was I going to at least take a year off. And so I had a good friend who worked at the University of Utah in their College of Nursing, who said, Well, why don't you apply to be a visiting scholar and take a sabbatical? So that's exactly what I did. I was a Dean at the time. And Dean's had not gotten sabbaticals previously. But I think I made a good enough case because of the research that I wanted to do during that year. And also that I would be back in practice, so to speak, working at the spectator clinic. So I was able to get what at the time was a half time sabbatical. But for the entire year, and my assistant took over my job. And it was a great year. That was mine.
Robert Richardson 28:44
Mine was a little bit different. My University has a six week break between fall semester and spring semester. And they put some courses into that six week period of time. So I could guarantee that I'd be in Salt Lake that six weeks period every year. And we always end at the beginning of May. And we never start until after Labor Day. So I could guarantee full three months, almost four months in Salt Lake City, and I could do the rest of what I needed to do remotely. The rest of that would be recruiting officials and arranging learn to curls and those kind of things. So that worked out really well for me, and then my university was very supportive. We have a very strong physical education and kinesiology department, Sport Management Department. I'm not a part of that, but it's a predominant thing at our university. So there were all the right people were in place to grant me the sabbatical for the year. So then during that year we arrived in May of 2001. And lived full time in our condo until September 2002. So it was a perfect arrangement in since I was on full sabbatical, and Silvana was on half. We still had enough money that all work just fine for us.
Christian Napier 30:29
Awesome. Thank you so much. Now I want to come back to what you were about to say teaching people about the sport of curling because the state of Utah loves winter sport, but for them winter sport is really skating and skiing. Right. And so nobody really knew a whole lot about curling. So how did you approach teaching people volunteers or people in the committee or others about the sport of curling?
Robert Richardson 30:53
So we found through a lot of conversation, a wonderful guy Dale Sandusky, he's Scottish, comes out of West Kearns, I think, and he had curled a long time ago. We found another guy named Chris Strawn, a Canadian, transferred here to be a chef at various different places, but a chef, and he had good curling experience in Canada. And then with Lisa, who was now full time in Salt Lake and a good curler, we began to try to do some learn to curls. Now I kind of have to back up in the story to say that curling stones are not easy to come by. And they have to be carefully calibrated in weight. There's a whole lot of things that go along with it, you have to treat them well. So we had to get stones, there were no curling stones in Salt Lake City. So we got a set of stones. And at the time, where we were curling and storing these stones, was at a place called the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center. It's the precursor on the same property of the Olympic Oval. So at the time, it was covered by one of those air inflated bubbles. And the oval was inside and we had an arena curling ice sheet for figure skating, and then we curled inside that building. And the stones were stored off to the side and it's a rather unique arrangement. But it worked. And our biggest challenge, so now we got the stones. These would not be the Olympic stones, these would be stones we could use and transport around, which is what we had to do to get all this to happen. But our bigger obstacle was the reputation of curling, coming out of the Midwest, so on to mention the social aspect. After every curling match, the two teams sit together, commiserate, they might have some adult beverages, and there, but the reputation was they did a lot of drinking. And a lot of people in Utah weren't too interested particularly in having their children come to something where they thought we might be distributing adult beverages to anybody. And we were very conscious of that and insecure. I mean, cautious. So we also started to make connections with schools. So we had these curling stones that were not stones. You might remember from PE class for long times, those little scooters that you would sit on and moving around, or wheel scooters, we made those into curling stones. So we adapted the sport so we could take it in and do a demo in a school. get students excited, maybe get teachers excited that they would bring their class over and then we could teach on ice with real stones, etc. The other thing that didn't help us was the media. No matter how much we reached out to the media to come and learn to curl. Do an interview with us. There were jokes about curling, dismisses that it was a an actual sport.
Robert Richardson 34:57
Just no interest. There were several occasions where I called into morning talk shows on the radio to try to clarify some misconceptions they were sharing on the radio and in a program, and they just wouldn't even put me on and I couldn't get past the screener to try to correct this. So I'm going to jump ahead in the story. It's 2001 that Leslie Nielsen contacted us. Not him. But his production group. They were making a movie in Canada, it would be titled Man with Brooms. It was going to feature four curlers, men curlers, who've had some problems, but they get back together to compete, they go on. And they were going to bring in Leslie Nielsen and the rest of this filming crew and the actors in the crew, to Ice Sheet Ogden, and use some of our venue to film some of the shots for the movie. Well, that caused a lot of media frenzy. Leslie Nielsen is coming in, can we come to the venue? And our sport manager, Amy Preston, who I mentioned before, she was really savvy. And so she worked as best she could. Say yes to them, but to also make sure they would hype curling, and not just this actor who is coming in. So, right, he came in in September of 2001. And then we were getting ready to host Olympic trials in December of 2001, where every cycle we're the last team selected for competition in the Olympics, it's just the way our selection process works. So we finished I think that on December 18 of that year, and then that team would compete in two months in the Olympics. Anyway, with building up to that hype of the Olympic trials, and all these elite athletes coming in, finally, we got contacted by some media people, We'd like to do, we'll learn to curl. Oh, where are we going to do it all the venues were used for, you know, the whole story that we use for everything, every kind of purpose, every ice venue was booked. And now they wanted to do a learn to curl where all those other years, were interested to do it even when we begged them to come try our sport. Well, we're not ones to give up. So there were four crews involved in this and I'll go back to the stones. Each stone weighs 42 pounds. For one sheet of curling, you need 16 stones. We had four sets of stones. That's about 2600, almost 700 pounds of weight. So we had a crew, I'm going to call the haulers and they hauled all of these stones to the Pineview Reservoir. Because we're going to have to do this outdoors and we really wanted this media coverage. I wanted the media people to appreciate our stones, our sport. So while crew one is getting ready to haul these things out there, crew two is on the ice shoveling on the reservoir ice, naturalised, shoveling the snow, painting, hand painting the houses into the ice to make it look good trying to get the distance right -- I'll come back to that. Dedicated curling ice, you only need 140 feet, but you do need 140 - 150 feet of space. When you're on naturalized, that's a harder ice and it's -- the stone's not going to go that far. So you have to calibrate where to put this other house and bring it in. They were out there working doing all of that. And then the third crew of people would be the people who arrive to teach all these media people. Now back to the haulers when they got out there they had to carry these stones two by two down the bank or the reservoir to the ice.
Robert Richardson 39:54
At the end of the story, they had to carry them back up and bring them back to the ice. So quite quite a big challenge for them. And then the fourth crew was the people trying to do a lot of PR assigned to the media folks and the teams, be a little coach on the team and work them up to action and things. So that all worked out really well.
Robert Richardson 40:27
I have to back up again now to the very first learn to curl that we did in 1997. At Ice Sheet Ogden, and I was explaining that our start blocks are called hacks. Because we have to hack into the ice with an axe and bury these start blocks. So that we can push off and slide. Ice arenas don't want us come into their facilities to hack with an axe into their ice. And that makes sense. At this very first learn to curl where we had done them, there was a large number of people. And we had several different instructors. So Lisa and the others I mentioned, and we're working and I had a particular person, a guy in my group that I was working with, who was really listening attentively, he took really well to the sport. Things went really well. And I don't know if on the other sheets, the other instructors mentioned this story about the hacks, because it took a little bit of time away from instruction to tell a story. This guy comes up to me after we're done and he puts his arm around me and he says, Robert, I'm going to revolutionize curling. You are? You just learned. I'm not going to tell you what I'm up to. But I'm going to be back next week. I know you're doing another learn to curl and I'll be here and I'm going to revolutionize curling. Back then we would have come about an hour early. All right, I'll be here. I'll meet you an hour early. This is a true story. His name is Ian Hughton. He's still lives in Ogden. He is quite active within city affairs there. And he's a good curler. He had just graduated from MIT with a degree in engineering. He worked in the week to create a model of a hack made out of particular kind of metals and alloys with the rubber startblox attached to this metal frame. And this metal frame, we would set on to the ice and it would burn in so we would keep it warm. And then it would burn into the ice just a little bit. And there it was five minutes later, you could push off and you had great curling going on. When we had to hack into the ice, we had to pour hot water over the start block and wait a couple hours till it froze. That's what that crew had to do. Then out at Pineview Reservoir, had we not had, two years earlier, these hacks from Ian -- so going out to the reservoir, we put them in coolers that you'd use in the summer to go camping or whatever, but without water in them. So when we got them out, they were hot. They burned down and we were ready to go. We didn't hack in. Ian revolutionised curling. Now, at that time, there was no arena curling club anywhere in the world because of this hack thing. Now today, we have 400 arena curling clubs in the world, all of them using hacks with the name Ian Houston, on the structure.
Christian Napier 44:21
I love that story. That's fantastic.
Robert Richardson 44:23
Well, there's one more thing that I'd like to add, it's really important to help us bring curling to all parts of northern Utah. We partnered with the Utah Winter Games, which at that time was revered and celebrated for hosting winter sports events for ordinary citizens. So they added curling to their instructional lineup in early winter, and added curling to the competition lineup in mid to late winter. So in Utah, the reality is the first curling medals were awarded at Utah Winter Games curling competitions. Now curling in the sport department was a small unit. So our budget was low, we'd have never been able to have provided the reach out and exposure for curling that we got through Utah Winter Games. So we owe much appreciation to Sean Mason and Spencer Henderson for working with us and supplying us with venues and volunteers to help us publicize curling, recruit participants, and actually try our sport.
Christian Napier 45:37
I love it. I love it. Silvana, I want to come to you for a moment. So Robert's out there at Pineview Reservoir doing all this kind of stuff. In the meantime, it sounds to me like you are up at the University of Utah, and you are doing work up there. And you're also preparing to be a volunteer. And you mentioned in the area of medical services, volunteering. Were you also intending to volunteer at the Ice Sheet in Ogden as well in the sport of curling, or were you intending to volunteer in another area?
Silvana Richardson 46:11
Well, I was open to wherever I would be assigned. But during the couple of years that Robert was teaching and being involved with curling up in Ogden, I was there as well. And when the medical team was being assembled, primarily, it was going to be residents from the McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden. There were a couple of occasions where I actually sat with medical residents, and we talked about the sport of curling, so that they could be acquainted with it because they also had no idea what this was. And so that led to conversations about well, what could some of the sport injuries be? But then also, what are the other things we need to think about, for spectators and for the staff? And so I ended up being assigned to Ogden, which was really where I wanted to be anyway. And so I was not, there were two different medical setups or medical clinics, I think, probably at each of the venues. But in Ogden, there was one that had a medical team made up primarily of physicians and physical therapists for the athletes, which makes sense, because those would be the types of services that they would need. And then there would be another one for the spectators and the volunteers and staff. And that's where I was, that was primarily nurses and physicians. So I was in the spectator base, which if you think about it, it was sort of like an ambulatory care clinic. If something came up with the staff, the spectators, we took care of that. And kind of a story going along with that was the day that we opened the clinic, the opening of that venue. Early in the morning, I'm thinking it was almost like 6am, I was on that first shift. And our very first patient who came in was this diminutive woman who had passed out, well, it ended up being the venue manager. She had been working so much in the weeks before and I think worked through the night that she came in, and she was dehydrated, had low blood sugar. And we had everything working, you know, to take care of her on the spot. And later we joked about the fact that, you know, she probably just planned this right, so that she knew that everything was going to work on the medical side. And of course, that wasn't true. But yeah, so I would say that my job, a lot of it was preventive care. You know, we had a lot of security made up of police officers from all over the country. And a lot of them were really suffering from, you know, not being prepared for the altitude, we really had to push hydration, you know, just some of those basic kinds of things I remember there, it was not on my shifts, but on another shift, there was a staff member who fell off of the loading dock and did need to be transported to the hospital. One of the things that changed because it was 9/11 was how the ambulances worked with each other. So we had within the venue an ambulance that had been completely cleared for safety. So a patient would go into that ambulance, go to the perimeter and be met by an ambulance from the outside. And the patient then was transferred from one ambulance to the next. So you know for me and probably for most of us, that's not typically how it happens. But because of safety and security, that was one of the things that needed to change. So that was just one of the things that I remember from that time but you know, just really being able to meet people from all over the world. And another thing that we did was there were spectators who came to the venue thinking this is indoors. So, you know, I don't need to wear all those winter clothes that I do if I went to skiing up the way. And so we provided warm blankets to keep people warm. Just some really basic things that, you know, just showed we cared about the people who came.
Christian Napier 50:37
Well, it sounds like you had some interesting incidents with staff. And that happens every Games. And I remember last year actually working on an event in Italy. You mentioned the venue manager passing out in the main offices of the Organizing Committee. Right before the Games started the head of medical services passed out. Same thing. People have to stay hydrated and, and get some rest. So I appreciate you bringing that up. I'm curious about the injuries for curlers, because on the surface you think, well, they're just pushing a rock around like, how hurt can they get? They're furiously sweeping ice and sliding around, but maybe slips and falls. I mean, the rocks or the stones are heavy, right, as you mentioned 42 pounds? So you know what are some of the injuries that curlers typically suffer while participating in that sport?
Robert Richardson 51:26
The easiest way to describe this would be to envision any curling that you might have seen on TV, anything on a curler, we take our body, and we compress it so close to the ice to get that shot that's going straight to that target, which is the broom at the other end of the sheet. And in that compression, there are lots of things that, lots of ligaments that could get stretched inordinately. So elite curlers do a lot of exercises before their game to get that stretched out. But it doesn't mean you've gotten every one of them. Because in that delivery, your whole body is engaged in that movement process to get that stone delivered. So leg, ligaments, pulls in the foot, because our foot that last comes out of the hat totally tips over so that where that foot is really sliding on the shoelaces of the shoe. So that's a pretty good bend there. And if you hadn't gotten it stretched out just right before, or I think sometimes some of the injuries were during practice or warm up when they hadn't done enough of the exercises and stretches. And in the front, you've got to have total control of that delivery arm, whether it's right or left arm, but you got to have total control of that. So you can get some shoulder things. And maybe if you had some other shoulder injury, that's going to exacerbate that. A lot of times that's the only way to sort of calm that down is with some ice, but it needs to be quick and heavy duty ice. Silvana, some other ones you can think of?
Silvana Richardson 53:26
Well, those are the main ones. And I think you know, which is why the physical therapists were there, especially the ones who had some specialty and sports injuries and sports massage so that they could help to prevent them but then also could help to treat them so that curler could get back on the ice.
Robert Richardson 53:44
So what we did obviously we did a learn to curl for the medical services team. That helped immensely because they were sore after two hours on the ice, and they said my leg, my shoulder, my neck, my foot, my whatever. And they then could anticipate what a good number of those things were. Um, I think we also had some athletes who arrived with some cold or some virus that they might have had the medical services had to keep under control so they could compete well too.
Silvana Richardson 54:29
And the change in altitude that made a difference for everybody would have for the athletes as well.
Christian Napier 54:34
Okay, well, this is fascinating conversation. I'm really enjoying it. Silvana, you taught us a little bit about what was going on during Games time up in the stands, or behind the accreditation line. What about near the field of play? Robert, you know, what was that like during Games time? The competition is going on there. What was your role? What were you doing? And just how did all the competition unfold?
Robert Richardson 54:58
So in curling in probably true in all the other sports at this level, the field of play in the competition is managed by the head official. So, technically, we were credentialed to go there. But that's not a place where we needed to keep our minds, because we knew they had officials and the assistant officials would keep all of this running. Now there's a glitch that happened where we got very much involved in. Curling starts on the first day of competition and goes, continues until the last day of competition. We have 12 days of competition to get through the round robin play for 10 men's teams and 10 women's teams, and then get that narrowed down to be able to go into semi finals, and then medal round competition at the end. In the middle of this, I don't remember the exact day, we'd had a snowfall. So the roof was covered with snow, we have a domed roof, and it warmed up during the day, and it warmed up some more. And people were taking off their coats outside because it was sunny and you could tan however, it's quickly melting snow on the roof. Bound that one little bitty hole in the roofing for water to leak through and drop onto the field of play, which stopped all competition. Had to get the roof fixed, but simultaneously had to resurface the ice. Get it back to Olympic competition levels. There were, we were all involved in that process. Plus, trying to keep an eye on our volunteers. Spectator volunteers were great, keeping them all occupied and the plaza, which really wasn't designed to hold 2,000 people, but 2,000 people were excused from the arena while we tried to fix this problem. So there they were on the plaza. It was a great problem to solve. And I've got to give credit to the mascots. Because they're such a great team. Somebody let them know. They were there in a flash out in the the social space outside the arena, mixing and mingling with people, dancing with them, getting pictures taken with them, getting with the staff and the volunteers.
Silvana Richardson 57:52
We were just interacting with them just engaging. Where are you from, you know, what are you looking forward to what's been your best experience? It was actually fun.
Robert Richardson 58:01
And during that time, when everybody was out there, they would ask how come I'm wearing a green uniform and she's got a red uniform and somebody got yellow and somebody got another color. It was great. A lot of Olympic learning during that time. And then we got the problem solved. Whenever we have something like this, a national championship, a play down for national champ or world event, anything Olympics, there's a chief icemaker who's a curling ice maker, not a hockey icemaker or figure skating, our ice is at a different temperature, our ice, our humidity levels, levels have to be controlled. That became a problem that day, because we had 2,000 people in, we had to get 2,000 people out. We had -- that changed the atmosphere, we had to change all the settings while we were fixing the leak and the ice, and then begin to bring the people back and change all the atmospheric settings. And the ice manager does all that without without hesitation. That's what I do. That's how I fix it. They're always just these great technicians of ice and they know exactly what to do. So our problem was solved in a short order of time. And it was kind of fun in that regard.
Christian Napier 59:28
Well, it sounds like you had a fantastic experience with the Games, but they end like all events do. You mentioned that in September of 2002, then you I guess head back to Wisconsin and resume your lives. What were what were your takeaways from your Salt Lake experience?
Robert Richardson 59:44
I'm going to give us a story that's just so cool. So during test event time, I was helping I believe speed skating. To receive their athletes at the airport, just greet them, make sure they got to the right place. And I'm standing waiting for my next flight that's going to arrive. And I'm with two other people. And one of the people kind of leans forward and says, there's this young woman who keeps circling around looking at you. And she's been doing this a lot. Maybe you even know her? Maybe she wants to go out on a date? So I turned, I'm at the Salt Lake International Airport. And it's one of my former students from UW. Well, she had been my advisee. She'd been in my own class and done very well. And I turned and recognized her right away. Oh, my gosh, it's so good to see you. And I say to her, what are you doing here? She says to me, what are you doing here? So we had a conversation, she was a first year teacher in Rifle, Colorado. And sure her flight from the Midwest, came into Salt Lake before it would go to someplace near Rifle, Colorado. And she was signed off on a little layover. And what am I doing? Well, right now I'm reading these other things, but I'm part of curling, and blah, blah, blah. And we talked a long time. And I just invited her to come back and join us during the Games. But the story tastes takes a little twist a little while later that I was selected as one of the 25 people from SLOC who would get to carry the torch.
Robert Richardson 1:01:45
And even another twist to that story. That group of 25 was going to be announced by Mitt Romney in a formal ceremony out in Washington DC, on 9/11. So Mitt's out there, I didn't know it was a surprise to me, because we've been nominated by our colleagues in SLOC that I was going to be on that list and named. So eventually, then I find out that I'm going to get to carry the torch. And I'm assigned to carry in Eagle, Colorado. I don't know where Eagle, Colorado is. So I look it up on the map. And next to it is Rifle, Colorado. So I contact my student and I say I'm going to be coming, she arranges this whole day event with the students in Rifle. We couldn't go on the ice, but I'd be able to talk about the Olympics, be able to talk about curling. I had great experiences, those students were so receptive, and so excited. And the principals and the teachers were just really appreciative of me spending the day with their students and building up a little Olympic hype. Now, I'm going to carry the torch. The next morning, early, that's all I knew that it was going to be early. And of course I told those students come out and and I guess I knew where I was going to be curling. I must have like, not curling but running, between point x and point y. And so the next morning, when I got the torch and the flame leapt into my torch, and I turned, I had just gotten off the van that dropped off there. Here were all these students. It was packed in the route that I carried from all these students from Rifle and probably some other people from Eagle, but they were all there cheering with me and yelling and it was an amazingly exhilarating moment. Fun part of it is my two escorts almost immediately had to kind of grab my arm a little bit and say, slow down, dude, it's going to be over before you know it, don't go so fast! I just took off running with the torch. And so then I was able to enjoy it with all the students there. And then at the end, a little bit of a surprise, my fraternity brothers, both alumni and active chapter members from Denver, had come over to be at the end when I carried and have a little celebration with me. Just probably the most touching of memories for me.
Christian Napier 1:04:51
That's an incredible memory. I hope that wasn't the end memory. I mean what can you have over that? That's crazy.
Robert Richardson 1:05:00
I should add that my picture, and I think our picture together is still on a little coffee shop in Eagle. It turns out that the owner of this little coffee shop had grown up in our area of Chicago. And we went there eventually after the run and all that and the carry, because we were hungry for lunch. And then she met us. Oh, my gosh, we're from the same place in Chicago. And so she took a picture and hung it on the wall.
Silvana Richardson 1:05:28
I remember that. Yeah.
Christian Napier 1:05:36
Okay, well, I've already taken up more time than I planned on, we had a lot. And I could just sit here and have this conversation for hours. Because I love these stories. They are so fun. Clearly, the Games mean so much to each of you, because you're sitting there in youre white Salt Lake 2002 shirts, which look like they're brand new. I mean, they look like they're very pristine. So you've taken very good care of your Salt Lake 2002 shirts over the years. But let's let's come down to our, what do we call it, our home stretch, if you will. We have all of these assignments that we give people. And the first assignment that we have, typically is a music assignment. So Robert and Silvana, is there a particular song or a musical group that when you hear it today reminds you of your time in Salt Lake?
Silvana Richardson 1:06:23
Well, the one that I always think of was an Olympic song, Light the Dream. We have it on a CD, it's part of the governor's music and education program for kids. And just the words of it are so inspiring. And what I remember also is that our grandchildren would sit in the back of our car when we were driving somewhere and be singing this song. It was just so much a part of the Olympics to have, you know, everybody involved, you know, from the school age children all the way to all of the adults and grandparents. So that's the one and we have a CD and we play it every once in a while just to remind us of those good days.
Christian Napier 1:07:06
Would you happen to know who sings the song?
Silvana Richardson 1:07:08
Actually, the one that we have was sung by them then Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Christian Napier 1:07:14
All right, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Light the Dream, I'll find it on Spotify. If I can't find it on Spotify, I might ask you to maybe upload the song or something, or listen to it.
Robert Richardson 1:07:26
We already did in case you asked.
Christian Napier 1:07:29
All right, fantastic.
Robert Richardson 1:07:30
Mine is also from the music of the Games. And it's an instrumental by Pierre foetus and Michael Montas. And it's the Olympic Medals Plaza Fire and Ice Overture. And it's not so familiar. But if you were in any of the ceremonies where they awarded the medals, this is the overture they played. And when you listen to it, you can hear the part where the athletes are coming out, the eye opens up and they're coming out forward on the stage, then you can hear the intensity when they're getting their flowers and the crescendo to when they get their medals. It's amazing. Just amazing songs. So that's it for me.
Christian Napier 1:08:20
All right, well, I'm going to try to find those on Spotify. If I can't find them. Maybe I can find them on YouTube or other locations. But I'm gonna try to find --
Robert Richardson 1:08:27
We'll send them to you as soon as we get off.
Christian Napier 1:08:29
All right, send me the songs. Yeah. Okay, now let's go to the food, a particular restaurant that either of you like to frequent while you were living in Salt Lake City?
Silvana Richardson 1:08:37
Well, right around the corner from our condo is the Golden Braid bookstore and the Oasis Cafe. And that the Oasis is always a place to go and just have a cup of coffee in their little courtyard in the morning. And it's still there. And we frequent it whenever we get ourselves to Salt Lake City.
Robert Richardson 1:08:56
How about the hangout?
Silvana Richardson 1:08:57
Or the hangout? I would say well, also the bookstore because I loved to just go in there and browse and you know, find something else. And I don't know that this is a hangout, but we went every week to Music and the Spoken Word. Just always the music just being inspiring and just wonderful to be a part of that. And when we come back to Salt Lake, we make it a point to go there. But we're also listening, video streaming or, you know, however we can while we're here in Wisconsin, because it brings us back to Salt Lake.
Christian Napier 1:09:36
I love that. Hopefully Music and the Spoken Word can start up once again after COVID allows the choir to congregate and sing. That's one of the things that you just can't do with this pandemic is get a ton of people, particularly people of certain ages together to open their voices and sing in close proximity to one another. So I hope that things abate so that we can enjoy the choir once more.
Robert Richardson 1:10:01
Well, right around the corner from us was The Sage restaurant. I'm vegan. Silvanan is gluten free and dairy free and The Sage always had something for us. And on Tuesday night, they had this pizza buffet. They would make this unusual pizza and then come around and serve a piece to everybody who was there. Then somebody else had come with a totally different pizza. All gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and serve it. Oh, that was so good. So good. Now The Sage isn't where it was before. It's now called the Vertical Diner. But it's the same sort of menu format. And it's over at 200 West and 900 South. And so when we're ever back in Salt Lake City, that's where we go now, just like before, except this time, we have to drive instead of walk.
Christian Napier 1:10:54
All right, The Sage / Vertical Diner and then the Oasis and I am a fan of the Oasis as well. I think I've said it on previous podcast. I really like the tuna steak sandwich. So they have they're very, very tasty. Okay, you've shared so many incredible memories. Inspiring, touching, but I typically end on the goosebump moment. So give us your favorite memory, your goosebump moment of the Games.
Silvana Richardson 1:11:25
Well, mine really came before the Games. We know that there was a lot of uncertainty and speculation about the Games after 9/11. And shortly after 9/11, you know, I'm thinking it was within the the week after I was scheduled for my volunteer training, and it was going to happen in the Hillcrest high school auditorium. And well, was it gonna happen? Well, yes, the volunteer training was going to happen. And so I went and so did you know, a roomful of volunteers, but we were all still wondering, what was the announcement going to be? And Mitt Romney walked onto the stage, he had come back from being out east. And he gave the most positive, inspiring talk that I think a leader could give. And I remember him saying, we are going to welcome the world, it is going to be the best Olympics ever. And we all I remember standing on our feet when the Star Spangled Banner went, you know, played in singing loudly and just tears down our faces. But it was the most valuable lesson in leadership, or someone to be able to come out during the crisis in say, we're moving forward, we're gonna do the best we can do. So it was it's -- I always think of that. And I always think of Mitt Romney coming out on stage.
Christian Napier 1:12:53
That's a beautiful memory. And so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing that one. How about for you, Robert?
Robert Richardson 1:12:59
Well, you know, is as a staff member, and as a volunteer, we were invited to go to the dress rehearsal for opening ceremonies. And, of course, we went, of course. Speechless comes to mind, because as we were talking about it preparing for this interview, there's 10,000 moments from those opening ceremonies that were highly impacted. And, of course, in the dress rehearsal, we didn't get to see who would actually carry the torch in. But we saw how it was going to happen, because there were stand ins for those people who would come in later. And we didn't get to see who would light the torch. But we saw how that would be staged and all that. We saw all of their performance. We saw all of everything that was just so exciting. And part of that was looking around this crowded arena at the University of Utah, and realizing these were all staff and volunteers, who, and probably a lot of them were parents of children who were in the hugely orchestrated show. But anyway, such a good thing. And then I want to jump ahead with that, because we also got to go on our own, we chose to go to the opening ceremonies for the Paralympic Games. And before this interview today, we found it on YouTube and watched those ceremonies. And I just want to say besides them being really impactful that during that one was the best Star Spangled Banner rendition with everybody singing that I've ever heard in my life. And hearing it again this morning touched me as deeply today as it did then. Amazing things that were orchestrated within the Games, whether it was education or culture or environment. That's what I remember.
Christian Napier 1:15:20
That's a great memory. I loved those Paralympic ceremonies. I think we've mentioned on a couple of podcasts, Stevie Wonder is one of my favorites. Stevie was a champion out there playing in the rain. It was a cold driving rain, through much of that ceremonies. And, and I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed that ceremony. So thank you for, thank you so much for sharing that moment, that special moment with us.
Silvana Richardson 1:15:43
Part of what we did being from here in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and being away for a year, we wrote weekly articles at first about our experience so that people back home knew what was happening in June starting in June, actually. And then, during the time of the Olympics, we sent a message every day about what was happening, you know, a good memory or a highlight. And so thanks to the La Crosse Tribune, for sharing our time with our community.
Robert Richardson 1:16:18
We were front page each week and then daily. And that way, everybody in town knew what we were up to, and it caused great conversations. And when we came back, we were asked to do a lot of presentations for a lot of organizations like Rotary and AAUW and those different kind of groups in town. So that proved to be a really good legacy for us. Oh, I have one more thing to add that I forgot to say. So legacy, of course, was a really important part. And the Games produced a good legacy foundation. That's been great. And curling didn't have that designated venue like Soldier Hollow, etc. But I do want to give a shout out, we left the spirit of curling to be able to create four curling clubs in the Salt Lake Valley. So we curl at Cache Valley. We curl at Ogden, we curl at the Olympic Oval and we curl in Park City. And that's our legacy with four different groups involving hundreds of people in curling in Utah. When we started with those two people I could identify Dale and Chris.
Christian Napier 1:17:39
Well, thank you so much, both of you for taking so much time out of your day to share your thoughts and your experiences, and your passion for the sport of curling and for the Olympic Games. If people want to reconnect with you, Robert or Silvana to share their Games experiences, what's the best way for them to do so?
Robert Richardson 1:18:00
I have an easy email address. And I'm glad to answer anybody's email message to me or I'd share it with Silvana so I am r l. k. Richardson, because my name is Robert Lee Kent Richardson. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Napier 1:18:23
All right. hotmail.com, another person that has a hotmail address still. Fantastic. All right, Robert and Silvana, it's been a real joy. Thank you so much for taking the time. Listeners, please like and subscribe to our podcasts. We'll catch you again next week. Robert and Silvana. Thank you so much.
Robert Richardson 1:18:38
Our pleasure this has been so much fun getting ready for and executing in the in the interview. You're a great host. Thank you.
Silvana Richardson 1:18:46