SI Vault
William O. Johnson
November 04, 1974
Since they staged the Winter Olympics of 1932, the North Country Boys of Lake Placid never stopped trying to do it again. Now that their bid for 1980 was successful, the event will return to sane proportions
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November 04, 1974

Back Where The Games Belong

Since they staged the Winter Olympics of 1932, the North Country Boys of Lake Placid never stopped trying to do it again. Now that their bid for 1980 was successful, the event will return to sane proportions

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The North Country Boys were crushed and humiliated by their defeat. "When we opened the box with our big electronic exhibit in it, someone had put in a note: IF YOU DON'T WIN IT, DON'T COME HOME. We didn't want to come home, believe me."

In 1966 Lake Placid campaigned to get the USOC's backing for the 1972 Games, but lost to Salt Lake City which, in turn, was annihilated in the IOC vote. Sapporo won. Olympic Gamesmen recall that the Japanese made a big hit with IOC delegates that year by giving each of them a pearl before the voting.

In 1968 Lake Placid was turned down again by the USOC in its bid to make this country's pitch for the 1976 Gaines. Governor Nelson Rockefeller himself starred in the Lake Placid presentation; he promised full state funding for any Olympic facilities that would be needed. "It was a blank check," says Patnode. But both the USOC and the IOC went for Denver.

In November of 1972, after Colorado voters had decided overwhelmingly to reject the Olympic ideal in favor of good sense and a clean environment, the USOC began blundering about in its search for a replacement site. Once again, doughty Lake Placid stepped forward and offered to sweep up the shattered remains of Denver's bid. But the USOC, led by President Cliff Buck of Denver, insisted that Salt Lake City be the U.S. representative. Arms were twisted, and Salt Lake agreed to bid. Unfortunately, the state of Utah really wasn't enthusiastic about hosting the Olympics, and when both the mayor of Salt Lake City and the governor of Utah declared that they would not spend a penny to boost the Games, the USOC was left once more without a viable bidder. With just five days left before the IOC was to vote in Lausanne on a new site for '76, the USOC turned to Lake Placid. Hat in hand, it implored the North Country Boys to save America's face by appearing in Lausanne with at least a token bid to stage the Olympics in the U.S. during the bicentennial anniversary. Showing good grace and patriotism well beyond the call, Lake Placid agreed.

Once more, the Boys lost, this time to Innsbruck, but even with a scant five days for preparation they managed to pull together a presentation that was impressive enough for Lord Killanin, the IOC president, to tell Norm Hess, "We'll be looking forward to seeing you with a bid for 1980."

It is probable that there never has been an Olympic bid better prepared and more soundly based than the one Lake Placid brought to Vienna last week. For one thing, it was realistic—even honest. There was none of the obfuscation and exaggeration that Denver dealt in when it blithely reported to the IOC that its Alpine events would be held on Mount Snitkau, a totally undeveloped slope whose snow cover was suspect, and that its cross-country skiing would be run in the suburb of Evergreen, a community that promptly raised hell when it heard the news.

Before presenting the bid, Lake Placid arranged for the backing of such powerful environmental groups as the Sierra Club and the Adirondack Mountain Club, as well as absolute support from the New York Environmental Controls Commission and the state legislature. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution backing Lake Placid, and strong letters from both the Governor of New York and the President of the U.S. went out to Lord Killanin and all IOC delegates. To demonstrate public backing, Lake Placid held a local Olympic referendum in October, 1973. The Games won 726 to 576.

Lake Placid already has many of the facilities it needs for the Games, including cross-country ski and biathlon trails, a 70-meter jump, a 2,200-seat figure-skating arena, a functioning, FIS-approved Alpine ski slope (the state-operated Whiteface ski area offers a 3,212-foot vertical drop, greatest in the East) and the only bobsled run in North America. No proposed venue is more than 8� miles from the center of Lake Placid. People traveled 65 miles between sites in Grenoble, 45 in Sapporo, and Denver planned to spread the Olympics all over the Rocky Mountains, with the skating events in Denver and the Alpine competition in Vail, 115 miles over the mountains.

Lake Placid still must build a 90-meter ski jump, a stadium for opening and closing ceremonies, a press administration building, another figure-skating and hockey arena, an Olympic Village and refrigerate its speed-skating track. It must install a network of snow-making equipment on the windy upper reaches of Whiteface to insure adequate snow cover for the proposed downhill courses. Some new ski lifts, trails, spectator stands and parking areas also will have to be constructed.

All told, the Lake Placid Olympic committee figures that it will have to spend $30 million to put on the 1980 Games. The estimate is probably low; Sapporo spent $700 million, Grenoble $400 million. Neverthless, the slogan for the Adirondack Olympics could well be: Think Small. A low budget, plus low-key production is the basic philosophy. The breakdown of the costs as now estimated reads: $1,400,000 for improvement to existing facilities, $2,400,000 for administration and $23 million for new construction that includes $6 million for the Olympic Village apartments, $1,500,000 for a speed-skating track, $1 million for a 90-meter ski jump, $4 million for an indoor-skating arena, $8 million for the snow-making and other work on Whiteface.

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