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Welcome world: We’re ready to record memories of 1980 Olympics

February 12, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

This week, on the same day as the 35th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, we are launching an ambitious oral history project with our partners, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society. It's called "Welcome World."

The name was inspired by the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee's slogan, "Welcome World, We're Ready," and the goal of the project is to answer one question: "How did Lake Placid host the 1980 Olympic Winter Games?"

The scope of the project is limited to people who lived in the Olympic Region - the village of Lake Placid and surrounding communities - in 1980 and those who were officially connected to the games. Interviewees will include Olympic officials, organizers, government leaders, volunteers, venue employees, media, local business people and residents. Topics will include preparations for the games, official duties at the games, impact of the games on daily life for residents and hospitality for visitors.

Article Photos

Here is a photo taken during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games of the banner draped on the front of the Olympic Fieldhouse by 10-year-old Andy Flynn, a fifth grader at the time at the L.P. Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake. He is now the editor of the Lake Placid News.
(Photo — Andy Flynn)

Interviews will be conducted by Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn, Lake Placid Olympic Museum Manager Alison Haas and Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society Director Jennifer Tufano. A portion of the interviews will be published weekly in the Lake Placid News.

All recordings, transcripts and photos will be donated to the archives of each partner organization for safe keeping and educational use, including museum exhibits, public programs and media use.

After 35 years, we realize that many of the voices from the 1980 Winter Olympics have been silenced, and many more are at risk of being lost forever, as people pass from this life to the next. It's important that the voices from every corner of the community - not just the Olympic organizers - be recorded for posterity and retold, at least in part, to their neighbors. This way, we'll get a real impression of how Lake Placid hosted the last small-town Olympics in history.

To kick off this project, we thought it was important to honor the keeper of the flame, the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, which helps preserve our Olympic legacy by operating the 1932 and 1980 venues for the benefit of the local economy. And we picked a voice that rarely gets heard in the media, that of Olympic Center General Manager Denny Allen, who has worked at ORDA for the past 34 years and whose father Bob Allen was the general manager of the Olympic Center during the games. When asked to pick a favorite memory of the games, Denny chose to talk about his dad.

"He was very involved in the hockey, and to see how that turned out was rewarding for me," Denny said.

Bob Allen is one of those voices that can't be recorded, as he passed away six years ago, yet Denny was able to speak on his behalf.

"He was on the Olympic Organizing Committee, and he fought hard to make this happen. He was very proud of his involvement, and he was proud of his community that they were able to pull it off."

The list of people to interview grows each day, and this oral history project could potentially last for years. For now, we're happy to take it one week at a time. At the end of the project - whenever that day comes - we'll have a rich historic resource for future generations so they'll know exactly what happened in our neck of the woods from Feb. 13 to 24, 1980, and so we can finally explain what Lake Placid meant when it said, "Welcome World, We're Ready."



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