Both the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympics included nearly two weeks of memorable events. Though nearly five decades apart and immensely different in size and scope, these two events left an indelible mark on the beautiful picturesque landscape of this upstate New York Village and became an important part of New York history. Indeed, Olympic sports and this community have become synonymous with one another and the fact that the Olympics were held here still attracts visitors to this outdoor paradise.
In Feb. 1932, Lake Placid NY was one of eight towns (seven in the USA) being considered for the honor of hosting the Olympics. When the International Olympic Committee dubbed Lake Placid, New York a great spot for the games, the residents rejoiced. And though funds were difficult to raise in the midst of the Great Depression, the state government and the locals came through and the games were a great success.
See note below about Lake Placid hosting the 2030 games.
The high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains and the
weather were what attracted officials both times to this winter sports mecca.
The participants were equally as awed by the area's beauty and its
suitability for this international competition. However, the 1932 and 1980
Lake Placid Olympics, though centered in the midst of the same beautiful
landscape, were worlds apart.
In 1932, when much of Europe was poised on the brink of war and Adolf Hitler was beginning to exercise his power, only 17 countries came to the games. New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the games. A total of 252 athletes – 231 men and 21 women – participated in 14 events over an 11 day period, commencing on February 4. Only 4 sports and 7 disciplines were included in this Olympics – bobsleigh, figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey, and skiing, which included Nordic combined, ski jumping, and cross country. (Women’s speedskating and curling were exhibition sports.)
Today, we’d marvel at the medal counts that came out of this 1932 NY event
because so few medals were awarded in comparison to modern day winter
Olympics, where there are myriad sporting events. But in this international
spectacle, a total of only 42 medals were awarded. The USA led the medal
count at 12, including the highest number of gold medals – 6. Norway was
close behind at 10 and Canada at 7.
The sweetheart of the games was Norway’s Sonja Henie, one of the best figure skaters of that era. American William Fiske led the US bobsled team to victory, joined by team member and Olympic boxing champ Eddie Eagen, the only man ever to medal in both a winter and summer Olympic sport. Downhill skiing and other events on Whiteface Mountain were equally as exciting, with the Scandinavians dominating most of those events. It was a proud time in New York State history.
The Feb. 1980 Lake Placid Olympics hosted, in comparison, over 1000 athletes from 37 nations. Awarding of the games was a great boon for this NY village and represented a marked increase in tourism as people arrived from around the world to enjoy the Olympic activities, commune with nature, admire the beauty of the Adirondacks, and revel in the fun that was taking place just about everywhere throughout the village. For many who would travel here, it was an event to be long remembered.
The 1932 and 1980 Olympics both included landmark events,
but 1980 was especially memorable. It was in 1980
that the USA hockey team performed their “Miracle on Ice”, defeating the
4-time championship Soviet team. Also in 1980, it was the first time artificial
snow was used at an Olympic games. Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark soared
down Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY to make his mark in the
slalom and giant slalom events and American Eric Heiden won 5 gold medals
in speedskating, the first athlete to win 5 individual gold medals at any one
Awards ceremonies were held at one of the best places in the area, beautiful Mirror Lake. This time, however, the East German’s amassed nearly twice the number of medals as the USA team, with a total of 23. The Soviets, who had the most golds, were close behind at 22. America received 12 medals. Later that year, the Americans boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow, a disappointment in the life of the many athletes who had been training for the event.
Today, you can still relive the thrill of the Olympic experience with a visit
to the Winter Olympic Museum. The museum celebrates the
excitement of the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics through a
variety of exhibits, videos, and information about historic attractions
connected to these international games.
Open since 1994, it holds an honor among historic sites as it is the only Olympic museum in the United States.
As a matter of fact, the museum was in the news a few years ago when it provided many of the props for the 2004 Disney movie “Miracle”,(starring Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks) a flick about the 1980 USA hockey team, their preparation before the game and a reenactment of their famous game against the Soviet team. It hosts thousands of visitors each year and is supported by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and other Olympic-related programs around the area.
Lake Placid 2030 ???
There was a 48 year gap between 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Why not 50 years after lets have it here again?
2030 will also be the 50th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice Hockey Game.
Lets have a party to celebrate and invite the world to some friendly competition. This community is a very active sports village. They have sporting events here all year.
(Note from Ron : This idea came to me 2 days after the ending of the 2010 Games
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