Reporter recalls 1980 Lake Placid Olympics
SCHENECTADY It seems appropriate we had snow this week. Just wouldn’t seem right watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi with winter-yellow grass on the ground.
I’m not sure how much of the Games I’ll watch. Think all the network advertising hype turned me off a few years ago.
My favorite games had few commercials. That’s when I watched events live in Lake Placid as a young newspaper reporter.
I was a 24-year-old staffer for The Post-Star in Glens Falls at the time, and had secured a photographer’s credential. We were doing local stories at the Post-Star, and my biggest piece was the local state police presence and the how the troops planned to maintain security.
I received a photographer’s credential. And that meant freebies. The Canon people gave photographers free red winter coats and camera bags, and I accepted. Everybody else with a camera seemed to be wearing one.
The big worry 34 years ago had been snow coverage, but both natural and man-made forces combined to put plenty of snow and ice where it counted. I had my Pentax K-1000 single lens reflex camera, and took black-and-white pictures for the Post-Star and color slides — Kodachrome! — for my personal collection.
The slides are out of my home Carousel for the first time in decades, in the Gazette’s photo system and now presented here for the first time anywhere. They’re not great ....but they are souvenirs from an adventurous assignment. I remember taking shots of the massive crowds at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, home base for the ski jumps. And other casual shots around the village.
Here are other things I remember about Lake Placid:
While the Times Union and Menands TV station WNYT had rented houses in Lake Placid for their staffs, my trips were one-day affairs. I drove up in the early morning and returned home during early evening.
I had finished my interviews with the Troop G guys, had wandered around downtown Lake Placid and was preparing to drive two hours south back home to Saratoga Springs when I visited the media center. All sorts of press guides and posters were there for the taking, and I grabbed a bunch.
The complimentary ticket table was uncrowded, and I ambled over. I didn’t think I could actually get any tickets, but there was zero problem — I got tickets for two hockey games, USA-Norway and USSR-Poland. I had to go — couldn’t pass up seeing teams the whole world was watching.
I had never been a hockey fan. But I think the American team and its high-spirited level of play made a lot of friends during the winter of 1980.
I can even offer a story about lost romance in the cold Adirondacks. Watching the USA game, I sat near a young woman who was also solo. We began talking — she was an American working for Canadian Television. As we were both rooting for the USA separately, we decided to sit together and root collectively. She bought a round of beers; I returned the favor. And after the game, we shook hands and went our separate ways.
I don’t even remember her name, but remember taking a bunch of shuttle buses out of Lake Placid, jumping into my 1973 AMC Gremlin sometime after midnight and praying the old car would not freeze during the two-hour trip down the Northway.
I’ve been up to Lake Placid a handful of times since, most of them for Gazette stories. I always think about the 1980 assignments whenever I hit town. And I’ve still got the red Canon coat ... maybe I’ll wear it to work a couple times next week.