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Olympic return a long shot, but miracles do happen in Lake Placid

February 6, 2014
Lake Placid News

Ever since the 1932 Olympic Winter Games ended, there's been hope that Lake Placid would once again host an Olympics. After decades of sending bid teams abroad, Lake Placid finally landed the 1980 Winter Olympics. And like clockwork, more Lake Placid bid teams were compiled after the 1980 games.

It is widely believed that Lake Placid could only host another Olympics on a regional basis, perhaps with venues as far away as Albany, Plattsburgh or Montreal. The possibility of making history by sharing the Olympics with Canada is an exciting prospect. It certainly makes logistics - transportation, security, language, currency, etc. - more challenging, but we've never shied away from a challenge; that's what the Olympics are all about.

We'd love to be part of history in the making once again. Perhaps we can't do it alone; perhaps we can. Lake Placid has been long heralded as the last small-town Winter Olympics. The games have outgrown our tiny resort town in the past 30 years. The Lake Placid bid delegation that traveled to Atlanta in 1996 knew this and pointed to the 1992 games as a model for Lake Placid in the future, spreading venues around a region. But maybe it's time for another small-town Olympics here in the Adirondacks. Advances in technology and the world's ever-changing video viewing habits could strengthen an argument for a return to Lake Placid.

A lot has changed since the bid team was organized for the Atlanta trip. In 1996, there were only two bobsled and luge runs in North America - Lake Placid and Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. As soon as Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, it became an important part of the World Cup circuit, giving the U.S. Olympic Committee another host city choice for future games. Salt Lake City, by the way, was a bid finalist for the 1972 Games that were eventually awarded to Sapporo, Japan.

Gone are the days when one country hosted the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, as was the case in 1932 when Los Angeles hosted the Summer Games and Lake Placid hosted the winter games. And there are more cities with Olympic dreams than ever, so the competition has increased. To make things more complicated, the U.S.O.C. has to decide whether to bid for a Summer or a Winter Olympics first. The last time the U.S. hosted a Summer Olympics was 1996 in Atlanta.

Despite local efforts, Lake Placid never made it to the preliminary round of bidders for the 2022 Winter Olympics as six cities met the application deadline on Nov. 14: Almaty (Kazakhstan), Beijing (China), Krakow (Poland), Lviv (Ukraine), Oslo (Norway) and Stockholm (Sweden). IOC officials said there was a "significant increase in the number of cities bidding to host the Olympic Winter Games," as twice as many joined the contest for 2022 compared to four years earlier. The list represents a clear mix of traditional and developing winter sports markets. Stockholm dropped out of the race in January after the City Council failed to back the bid.

"Indeed, while recent Games have left an array of sporting, social, economic and other legacies for the local population, many cities that did not go on to win the right to host the games have also noted benefits as a result of their bids," said IOC President Thomas Bach.

The applicant cities were invited to attend a seminar in Lausanne, Switzerland in December and to participate in an observer program during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The IOC Executive Board will select the final list of candidate cities for 2022 in July, and the host city will be chosen during the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2015.

Lake Placid's greatest asset is its tenacity to pick itself up after being knocked down, brush itself off and keep on going. In 1982, citizens formed the 2000 Club to bring back the Olympics by the year 2000. That didn't happen. In the mid-1990s, Lake Placid worked with the Adirondack Region to bring the Olympics back by 2022. That didn't happen. Neither did former Gov. Pataki's quest for a 2014 Lake Placid bid. But we can't believe Lake Placid has given up on its quest for a third Olympics.

History shows us that it takes decades with multiple bids to be elected the host city. Look at the 1980 Olympics, which we got after more than 20 years of bidding (for 1960, 1968, 1972 and 1976). In fact, 50 years ago, a local bid delegation headed by Mayor Robert Peacock was in Innsbruck, Austria to convince the IOC to choose Lake Placid as the host city for the 1968 Olympic Winter Games. The delegation included J. Bernard Fell, William J. Hurley, Ronald Mackenzie, Art Devlin, Stan Benham, James Sheffield, Luke Patnode, Harold Wilm, Karl Fahrner, Al Eggleston, Fred Fortune, Bob Allen, Jack Wilkins, Norman Hess and J. Vernon Lamb Jr. The vote choosing Grenoble, France as the 1968 host city was made on Jan. 28, 1964.

"The following day, Wednesday, Jan. 29, seven Lake Placid athletes will march in the ceremonies opening the IX Olympic Winter Games," reported the Lake Placid News on Jan. 23, 1964.

Members of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team competing in Innsbruck were Jeanne Ashworth, speed skating; Jim Page and Jim Shea, nordic combined; and bobsledders Reg Benham, Bill Hickey, Jim Lamy and Gary Sheffield. Here are some words of wisdom written by News Editor Marge Lamy in the Jan. 23, 1964 issue as the bid delegation - and her bobsledding husband, Jim - headed to Austria for the Olympics:

"Whether or not we have an opportunity to host the Winter Games again, we can continue the all-out devotion to presenting Winter Sports, which has been the mainstay of the community. We know enough about competing and handling events to know how a good sportsman takes his wins or losses. That spirit of sportsmanship underlies our whole bid, and will be most important in the week ahead."

We can be proud of our Olympic heritage and know that even if we don't win a bid again, Lake Placid continues to play an important role in Winter Olympic sports development and has earned its rightful place on the international stage. Having sent at least one local athlete to each Winter Olympics since the first one in 1924 is proof that Lake Placid maintains its relevance in the world of Olympic competition.

 
 

 

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