Eternal inspiration: J. Bernard Fell’s 1980 Winter Olympic opening ceremony speech

Many who have grown up in, moved to or visited the Olympic Region have fallen in love with this place for a variety of reasons. For us, we love the eternal inspiration of Olympians and the community members who are responsible for bringing the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics here and successfully hosting them.

Every time we see the 1980 Olympic cauldron at the North Elba Show Grounds, we are reminded of that inspiration and take to heart the words of Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee President J. Bernard Fell, who gave a passionate speech here on Feb. 13, 1980, during the opening ceremony of the XIII Olympic Winter Games.

Here is the text: “Our banners say it. Welcome world, we’re ready.

“And it’s true. Lake Placid, which successfully hosted the third Olympic Winter Games in 1932, is ready to do it again. There have been changes since 1932. Many more competitive events, many more new facilities, a lot more wonderful athletes. And I think, if my memory serves me, just a little less snow than 1932.

“But we think that you will discover that our Adirondack Mountain community still retains it old-fashioned charm. Friendly people still live here, work here, wait to greet you. We worked hard, and we have accomplished what we set out to do — to bring you and the world an Olympics in perspective.

“The question is, ‘What exactly does that mean?’ The late Ron MacKenzie, who did so much to bring these Games back to Lake Placid, explained it this way: ‘Our feeling is that the Olympic Winter Games should revert to what they once were — a contest among athletes. And we thought that a small village like ours could provide a better setting than any place in the world.’

“Now that the 13th Olympic Winter Games are finally here, we would like to accomplish one more thing. It is far more difficult than anything we have undertaken before. We would like to somehow make the beginning of these Games signal the beginning of a new understanding among the peoples of our world. For this to happen, we need your help.

“As we watch these fine athletes from many points on the globe compete on ice and snow, we hope that their skill, their devotion, their ideals, will inspire the rest of our world. We hope that the world will see that healthy competition, healthy communication go hand in hand. We desperately need both. Without competition, there is complacency. Without communication, there is chaos.

“We are proud to have brought the Games to Lake Placid, and we take pride in presenting these next dozen days to you and to the world. But we would be prouder still, the people of this village and our organizing committee, if we could say that what we did here contributed to the preservation of the Olympics, and even more, toward the preservation of peace in our world.”

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