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Date
09 Feb 2010
Tags
IOC News , Lake Placid 1980

Relive the Glories of past Olympic Winter Games: Lake Placid 1980


1980 Lake Placid
XIII Olympic Winter Games

Opening date: 13 February 1980
Closing date: 24 February 1980
Country of the host city: United States of America (USA)
Candidate cities: Vancouver-Garibaldi (CAN) withdrawn
Nations: 37
Events: 38

On ice and snow, be it artificial or real, a new generation of athletes reminded the people of Lake Placid that anything is possible, even miracles and unimaginable victories.

In February 1980, Lake Placid played host to the Olympic Winter Games for a second time, almost 50 years after the first celebration. There had been many changes in the Olympic winter world over those years. In 1932, distance and the effects of the Great Depression prevented some athletes from travelling to Lake Placid. In 1980, however, they came from four of the five continents to take part – some roughly 800 more than in 1932 including the first time Winter Games appearance of athletes from Costa Rica, the People’s Republic of China and Cyprus.

It was also the first time that Lake Placid’s citizens were able to welcome the Olympic flame. In 1932 there had been no Flame, indeed no relay, not even a symbolic fire. In 1980, however, 52 people, both male and female, who best exemplified the ancient Greek ideal of the ‘whole man’ were selected from across the US to act as multiple-time torchbearers. They carried the Olympic flame on the 1,600km national leg of its journey.

Change was also evident in the sports programme. In 1932 there had been no luge, alpine skiing, ice dancing or women’s cross country skiing. In speed skating women had only participated in demonstration events. During the years between the two Lake Placid editions of the Winter Games though, those disciplines or events had gradually been added to the programme.

Despite the fact that Lake Placid had been left with a legacy of sporting facilities following the 1932 Winter Games the changes to the sports programme meant that updates to existing facilities or the building of new ones was required to host the 1980 events.

At the Mt. Van Hoevenberg site it was decided to retain the old bob run exclusively for the bobsleigh events. It received a chilly facelift with the addition of a refrigeration system that would ensure that in 1980 the competitions would be completed before the Closing ceremony. The installation of new snow making equipment at Whiteface Mountain proved to be fortuitous when there was only minimal snowfall in the lead-up to the Games. For the first time in Olympic history alpine athletes skied on runs covered in artificial rather than natural snow.

In the town of Lake Placid itself, the 1932 Arena received an upgrade and a new Olympic field house with two ice rinks was constructed next door. A new refrigerated oval was built on the site where the 1932 speed skating competitions had taken place.

It was at the oval that some of the most exciting moments of the 1980 competitions unfolded. In the men’s event’s, Eric Heiden became a legend and his sister Beth achieved her own level of success skating to a bronze in the women’s 3,000m event.

The Heidens were not the only familial duo to meet with success. In the Alpine skiing another brother and sister, Hanni and Andreas Wenzel both earned medals. Hanni entered all three women’s events and got stronger with each performance, earning a silver followed by two golds. Andreas added to the Wenzel family total by taking a silver in the men’s giant slalom.

In figure skating it was the Soviet husband and wife pairing of Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaytsev who skated to gold in the pairs event, winning first place votes from all nine judges for their performance. For Rodnina it was a third straight Olympic title and her last appearance at the Winter Games.

Family ties or not, by the time the 1980 Olympic Winter Games drew to a close, another chapter of Olympic history had been filled with many remarkable performances. The one that most of the citizens of Lake Placid would talk about though would be the ‘miracle on ice’.

Athlete Biographies 
Eric Heiden (United States)

Eric Heiden skated because he loved it. He skated for the glory of the sport not for personal glory. He never wanted to be famous. Ironically, though, that is precisely what he was destined to become.

Despite having won three consecutive overall world titles between 1977 and 1979, Eric Heiden was still a relative unknown in the US in the lead-up to 1980. By the time the Winter Games were finished, he had become a household name.

In one event after another Eric powered his way to a speed skating gold. Nothing phased Heiden. Nothing stopped him either. He won all five men’s races, setting five Olympic records and one world record along the way.

Shortly after Lake Placid Heiden turned his attention to cycling but it was his achievements on the ice that he would be best remembered for.


©IOC

United States Men's Ice Hockey Team

In 1980, a team of talented if still somewhat green young athletes proved that anything could happen, even a ‘miracle on ice’.

Ranked seventh prior to the Games, everything was about to change. Match by match, gutsy strategies and bursts of brilliant puck handling allowed the American players to come from behind and win. Whether they were facing medal favourites Sweden or Czechoslovakia, the American team appeared unstoppable.

Advancing into the final rounds, they took on the Soviet team who had handed them a crushing defeat before the Games. This time around, it was the Soviets who were crushed. The competition for gold was still on though.

For the Americans, there was still a game against the Finnish team to be played. A win would mean gold, a defeat, bronze. One last time, in their patent come from behind style, the Americans managed a miracle. Gold was theirs.


©IOC

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