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OLYMPIC HISTORY: Celebrating Olympic flower power

February 19, 2015
By ALISON HAAS , Lake Placid News

In 1980, Linda Fratianne's smile was captured as she stood in front of a backdrop of flowers while holding an intricately designed bouquet. It is moments like this that one might question how it came about.

Not the journey that brought her to winning a silver medal in the Ladies Figure Skating competition, but how this beautiful display of flowers spotlighted the petite skater moments after being awarded a medal at the Olympic Winter Games.

An athlete's journey to the podium is long and demanding, and it turns out the bouquet's journey from garden to the hands of a winning athlete is not an easy one either.

Article Photos

Linda Fratianne
(Photo — Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

Prior to the games in Lake Placid, Chairman of Dignitary Host Services Ruth Hart arranged for the donation of more than $150,000 in floral products, talents and services to assist in the beautification of the Olympics.

It was Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD) along with its affiliate Interflora, who coordinated the floral industry's contributions to the Winter Olympics. Flowers and plants were donated from around the world with growers and distributors providing more than 100,000 blooms.

Two internationally known floral designers of the time, Everett Conklin and Frances J. Poetker donated their time to design the floral decorations and lead two teams of volunteers in creating more than 300 presentation bouquets for winners and all the floral decorations at the Olympic venues and housing areas. The florists applied "Olympic-style" teamwork to the creation of the decorations.

There were two assigned teams each with a captain, one from FTD and one from the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee that were based at the ice arena and the Lake Placid Club. One of the team leaders, Claire Stahler, recently recalled some of her memories to Ruth Hart in an email about the floral efforts during the games:

"The first task of the LP Club team was to place flowers in every room in the club. The next thing on our list was to create the floral decor for the opening ceremonies because the temperatures were hovering around freezing, we had to spray the flowers with a dye. This was to make sure that they would look good when they were going through the freeze and thaw process. Otherwise, the flowers would turn to mush."

Since many flowers freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the flowers were protected in a special 32-foot van that was temperature controlled and used for transporting and storing the flowers. Stahler was one of the florists on hand when the climate controlled van's generator died.

"We gathered anyone we could find to help rescue the flowers that were in the truck," she said. "It was the entire supply of flowers for the games. A skim of ice was starting to form on the flower containers when we got there to remove them to the hall just outside the Lussi Rink."

Luckily, the flowers were saved and teams were able to create the presentation bouquets.

The bouquets were considered international since they included pink roses from the U.S., yellow tulips from the Netherlands, pink chrysanthemums from South America, balsam from the Lake Placid area, and an olive branch twig from Greece. Volunteers were careful to remove thorns from the roses and tied the stems all together with the same blue and white Tiffany ribbon that was used on the prize medals awarded to each winner.

It is preparations and details like these that are often forgotten when the Olympic games are over. However, a letter written by Ruth Hart to a professor in the Floriculture & Ornamental Horticulture Department in Cornell a month after the games proves that no matter what your role was in the games, it was important and led to its success:

"May I express to you my personal, deeply grateful thanks for the role that you and your students took in executing the floral arrangements for the Olympic Winter Games. We were fortunate indeed to have a scientist of your ability be willing to perform all kinds of tasks for the good of the whole.

"I thank them [students], for giving their time to support services for the Olympics. If it affected their academic work, I hope their Professors are gentle and are aware of what they did outside the classroom. They get straight A's from us."

To learn more about often forgotten details of the Olympic Winter Games, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Main Street.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ironman Sunday.

For more information about the museum, please visit



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