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Robert L.K. Richardson: Stunned in Salt Lake City, but Olympics go on

Robert L.K. Richardson: Stunned in Salt Lake City, but Olympics go on

From the COLLECTION: 20 years later, our readers share 9/11 memories series
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As Sport Administrator for Curling for the XIX Olympic Winter Games (Salt Lake City), I assumed responsibilities for pre-Games events.

Host cities stage events to build local enthusiasm and championship test events to provide experiences for staff and volunteers.

Along Utah’s Wasatch Front, we hosted community celebrations to introduce local people to curling. Most Utahns had never heard of it. We had to couple “curling” with “ice”; otherwise people thought our events featured weight-lifting.

On Sept. 9, 2001, on Interstate-15, I hauled four sets of curling stones from Ogden (curling venue city) to Kearns (western SLC suburb) to stage a day of learn-to-curl events. Each curling stone weighs 44 pounds; one set requires 16 stones. We hauled a ton of granite.

Simultaneously, SLOC President Mitt Romney traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in a variety of events -- including the public announcement of the SLOC staff members peer-nominated to carry the Olympic Flame.

Our events on Sept. 10 exceeded expectations. After 12 hours on the ice, I left the Olympic Oval at midnight anticipating a good (albeit, short) night’s sleep. I needed to return at 7 a.m. to load the stones for return to Ogden for a major event later that day.

At 6:30 a.m. MDT, on Sept. 11, I found the building locked. I waited. Flip phones then did not do what smart phones do today. At 6:50 a.m, I heard a radio proclamation about the in-progress devastation in New York City. The FAA ordered jets to land. Interstate transport was prohibited. I felt shockwaves through the silence. I had no idea what to do with my ton of granite.  Romney was grounded. Would the Games be cancelled? We waited two weeks for the answer.

Five months later, I carried the Olympic Flame as a SLOC designee; and Salt Lake hosted the 2002 Games – safeguarded by military security.

Robert L.K. Richardson

La Crosse 

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