August 5: Michael Burgess: The 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics

  • Monday, August 5th, 7:00 pm: Lecture: Michael Burgess, author of “A Long Shot to Glory: How Lake Placid Saved the Winter Olympics and Restored the Nation’s Pride”

Sometimes life is like a movie. There are moments and events in life – not often – that are as exciting and as dramatic as a movie. What happened in Lake Placid, New York in February 1980 at the Thirteenth Winter Olympics was such a time. For those who experienced it in person or watched the games on television, they remember where they were when the US hockey team beat the Soviet Union and then beat the team from Finland two days later to win the gold medal. The sports victory of an underdog group of college kids was thrilling enough but it was a win against the Soviet Union. This Cold War adversary was also the nation hosting the summer games later that year which the United States was threatening to boycott.
What happened on the hockey ice was improbable enough, but the Lake Placid Winter Games were a long shot, if not a miracle too. Winning the games had been an unlikely decades-long quest for this small town to overcome the barriers of exploding finances, environmental concerns and world politics. Few remember that the 1980 games were never supposed to take place in Lake Placid. They came to the small village because of unexpected events which unfolded and made the two weeks in the remote Adirondacks before a worldwide audience of nearly a billion viewers one of the most dramatic times in the modern era of sports, media and politics. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the Lake Placid Games, which brought the “Miracle on Ice,” saved the Winter Olympics in 1980 and greatly enhanced them for the future.