The XIII Olympic Winter Games, were officially opened on a Wednesday in mid-February, but the temper and pattern of mismanagement was officially set the day the illadvised notion was sanctioned that a sleepy Adirondack community could duplicate its feat of 48 years ago. When the Games were first held in Lake Placid in 1932 the world was a much smaller place. Life moved at a human pace, athletes competed in a distinctly amateurish way.
Even as the sign in front of the Church of the Nazarene on Main Street proclaimed, WELCOME WORLD, THE LORD IS READY, and the president of the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee echoed WELCOME WORLD, WE ARE READY to 25,000 shivering spectators and the microphones and television cameras, 40 people stood 10 miles away in Wilmington, New York, clutching their $35 to $45 opening-ceremony tickets for the second hour, waiting for a bus. Another 60 sat aboard a Rive Sud bus from Montreal snarled in miles of traffic, as their tickets became bitterly remembered souvenirs. When the frigid pageantry ended the miles of winding roads leading to this village were snarled with spectators cum pedestrians, their promised transportation unmoving in the distant chaos.
In the background, of course, were the athletes—shepherded back and forth from their events to a maximum-security $28-million Olympic Village that will become a minimum-security prison when things get back to “normal.” Meanwhile in Lake Placid tourists cursed menu prices posted outside restaurants and lined up for hours in the sub-zero chill for tickets they had purchased months ago while people without tickets were allowed into the tiny ticket office because, “they are easier to process.” Thousands of tickets sat in the offices of tour operators across the country who could not sell their expensive packages. Those who could get tickets were asked to pay $33.60 (U.S.) to watch opening-round hockey “games” such as the Soviet 16-0 farce Si with Japan. Others were offered, but refused, free tickets to such “games” as j Canada vs. Holland. If lucky enough to | catch a bus back to their motels, the £ faithful could rest assured that their £ $135-a-night room would cost $40 a o night, when things get back to u “normal.”
In the crowds milling through the town in a lemming-like stream could be caught occasional glimpses of some of the more than 4,000 journalists, broadcasters and photographers covering the games, adorned in the ski suits of their employers. And an alert observer might identify the sole occupant of a van as a female member of the International Olympic Committee, bypassing the foot-stamping lineups on her way to her hotel, seven miles out of town, so that she might have a cup of tea and change for a cocktail party. Dodging religious cult solicitors, Afghanistan sympathizers protesting against the Moscow Games, pin traders, ticket scalpers, prostitutes, drug pushers and souvenir hucksters, the same celebrity hunter might happen to see U.S. AttorneyGeneral Benjamin Civiletti, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and numerous White House representatives here to lobby for President Jimmy Carter’s Moscow boycott.
At centre stage, and to no one’s surprise, IOC President Lord Killanin reiterated that the Moscow Summer Games must go on, and that sport should be above politics—even as the Taiwanese athletes were ordered to pack their bags by the same IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee petitioned that the Afghanistan invasion was sufficient contradiction of the Olympic code to move the Summer Games out of Moscow. After his petition was rejected, USOC President Bob Kane cogently expressed a lack of
empathy and understanding of which the bureaucrats that control the Games have long been accused, “maintaining training for a Moscow Games that could be boycotted shouldn’t be any hardship for athletes. They will have other competitions.”
For Canadian athletes opened where the vast majority of their past glories have been won—at the hockey rink. It was soon obvious that past glories would have to do. In the first game, against Holland, Father David Bauer’s resurrected dream of a national amateur team struggled. Young, fleet, but small and inaccurate around the net, the Canadians barely managed to take control of the game by the midway point against what should have been a vastly inferior opponent (despite the 12 Canadians on Holland’s roster). They scored 10 goals against the eventually exhausted Dutch and followed up with a much crisper and more fluid perfóral-
ance in beating a stronger team, Poland, 5-1. Yet in a third game, one the team and organizers had looked to as the most crucial (Father Bauer said before the Games, “All along our motto has been ‘Beat Finland’ ”) they played with the intensity of a team playing out its schedule. The Finns scored a shorthanded goal and another from their own end as goalie Bob Dupuis let the puck slide under his stick. And when asked what he had told his players to motivate them for the third period as they trailed 3-1, Coach Clare Drake said, “We left them alone.” After losing 4-3, the Canadians were no longer alone, dependent on the play of Poland to advance them to the middle round.
Alone with his thoughts at the top of Whiteface Mountain was Ken Read the day after he carried the Canadian flag D leading the team in the opening ceremo-
nies. His downhill race was only 15 seconds old, but it was over. “In training I had been losing time at the top. Today I skied it the best I had all week, the coach told me I had hit the first two gates perfectly. At the third turn I looked down and my ski was gone. I knew I was done, it was over.” The man picked by most experts as a favorite to win the downhill hugged teammate Steve Podborski who skied an excellent race to finish third and win the bronze medal. “It’s just the luck of the sport that my binding released,” said the remarkably well-composed Read. “It’s just another race but I’m really happy for Steve.” Podborski was happy, too, and surprised. “I didn’t know what had happened to Ken, I just skied the best I could. When I looked up at my time I thought, ah, that’s too slow but it was fast enough for third.” As Podborski accepted the accolades and Read said winning the final World Cup race next month in Lake Louise was more important, teammate Dave Irwin, happy with his llth-place finish, said: “Well, if you
win the World Cup, it’s forgotten in a couple of years. If you win the Olympic gold, you’re immortalized.”
Canadian dreams of immortality were evaporating with each day’s competition. Speedskater Sylvia Burka finished 10th in her specialty, the 1,500 metres, ninth in the 500 metres and seventh in the 1,000 metres. “This is my last skating competition,” said the 14year veteran, of her third Winter Olympics. “Maybe I’ll try out for the cycling team and see what Europe looks like in the summertime.” Men skaters Gaétan Boucher and Jacques Thibault finished eighth and 26th in the 500 metres, Craig Webster 20th in the 5,000 metres. Joey Kilburn and Bob Wilson were 13th in the two-man bobsled; Joan Groothuysen 27th, Shirley Firth 28th, Angela Schmidt 29th, and Sharon Firth 35th in the five-kilometre cross-country. Among ski jumpers, 15-year-old
Steve Collins, Tauno Kayhko and Horst Bulau were 28th, 30th and 41st in the 70-metre event. And despite its low finishes, the Canadian luge team was more than happy. Bruce Smith’s llth-place finish was the best ever by a North American; Carole Keyes’s 18th and Danielle Nadeau’s 22nd were the best ever by Canadian women. And for Innsbruck giant slalom gold medalist Kathy Kreiner a fifth place in the lady’s downhill was her best ever, though small solace for Canada’s inability to finance a giant slalom program. Little Laurie Graham missed her goal of finishing in the top 10 by 3/100ths of a second, but Loni Klettl’s 13th was her best too. The figure skating pair of Paul Martini and
Barb Underhill, ranked 11th in the world, finished ninth.
And so the XIII Games continued. Kreiner would ski the giant slalom, the figure skaters would skate and dance, the speedskaters race, the bobsledders slide and the hockey team would wait and see. For many, like Ken Read, it was “work’s over, now we can play.” Others would wait for buses but the IOC and the USOC would wait for Carter’s deadline for the Soviet evacuation of troops from Afghanistan. The future of the Olympic Games would hang in the balance, the eyes of the world would be focused on this overburdened village, and the athletes would be in the background, of course. £>
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.