Remembering the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY

Lake Placid Winter Olympics Participation Medal
Front side of participation medal from the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, NY.

I was a Junior at Lake Placid Central High School when the Winter Olympics came to town in 1980. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I recently sold my participation medal on eBay, and the gentleman that bought it asked if I could include a brief write up of my experience during that time. His family has visited Lake Placid, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, a number of times over the years. He’s putting together a collection with the various Olympic memorabilia he’s collected.

Here’s my story! The first three paragraphs are copied from the original listed I posted to eBay.

Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games Participation Medal

This commemorative medal was presented to every athlete and official participating in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games. This medal remains in pristine condition, appearing as it did when awarded over a quarter century ago. It’s raised design elements are crisply struck, enhanced by surfaces that are both immaculate and lustrous. The original hinged presentation case accompanies the medal, its condition in keeping with the beautifully preserved treasure it has protected for almost three decades.

 

The medal presented here was produced for the XIII Olympic Winter Games, held in Lake Placid, New York in 1980. This was the second time the Upstate New York village hosted the Olympics. Lake Placid also hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1932. The heirloom medal shimmers in NM condition with an engraved notation along the 1/4″-wide edge that reads, “© 10 C 1978 MACO.” On one side, the 3″diameter medal pays tribute to the Games’ individual events with raised representations of each sport. On the opposing side, raised lettering surrounding the five rings emblem showcases the Olympic oath. Its original blue presentation box accompanies the metal.

 

Miracle on Ice

Recipients of this medal included all 20 members of the legendary “Miracle On Ice” 1980 U.S. hockey team who won the Gold Medal. Their historic, upset victory over the mighty Soviet Union inspired millions, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletic achievements in Olympic history. The team’s amazing story is chronicled in the award-winning 2004 motion picture, “Miracle.”

 

Notes From Seller Lynn Short

This commemorative piece belonged to seller Lynn Short (now Lynn Smythe), Founder and Chief Designer for The Creative Cottage. I was born in Rochester, NY in 1963. When I was around 11 years old my mother married Steve Short and we all moved to Lake Placid, NY after I finished 6th Grade. Steve’s parents, Al and Hazel Short were running Adirondack Flying Service out of the Lake Placid Airport at the time.

 

Due to health issues, Al retired and Steve made the decision to take over the business as the F.B.O. (Fixed Based Operator). We actually lived in a doublewide mobile home on the airport property. The reason why this is of interest is because the Lake Placid Airport was directly next to the horse show grounds, where the opening ceremonies for the 1980 Winter Olympics took place. One of my high school classmates, Laura Viscome (now Laura Clark), was the placard/sign bearer for Italy during the Opening Ceremonies.

 

Our airport trailer wasn’t fancy, but the views were spectacular. Looking out our back deck window, we could see the back of Whiteface Mountain – where all the alpine skiing events took place. Sitting in our living room, looking out the front window, we could see the 70 meter and 90 meter towers of the Olympic Ski Jumps.

 

Opening ceremony for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Opening ceremony for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Adjacent to the Lake Placid airport.

My Experience at the Winter Olympics

I was a Junior at Lake Placid Central High School when the Winter Olympics came to town in 1980. ABC Sports used our high school as their base of operations so we had 6 weeks off from school from late January through the end of February. To make up this time all school vacations were cancelled that year, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. We also had to extend classes through the end of July to make up the lost days.

 

Since we had since an extra long break from school my mom and I volunteered our time with FTD (Florist Transworld Delivery) during the Olympics. We helped put together floral arrangements and distributed the finished pieces to both the Lake Placid Club and the Olympic Ice Arena. The Arena is where the “Miracle on Ice” occurred. As volunteers/participants in the Olympic games my mother and I were both given one of the official Olympic Participant Medals.

 

We also had to get security clearance and were issued a credentials badge so we could gain access to the Olympic venues. The security badge also let us get into certain events for free if there was room in the stadium. I remember we watched one of the Ice Dancing competitions at the arena but we couldn’t get into the hockey games because they must have been sold out.

 

Another interesting fact is that I ran track in high school. Our track was directly in front of the high school, which turned out to be prime recreational space for the Olympics. They tore up the track and turned it into the outdoor Speed Skating Oval. This is the very same speed skating oval where Eric Heiden, of the United Skates Speed Skating Team, won his 5 Olympic Gold Medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

 

Another tidbit – Lake Placid Central School was next door to the Olympic Ice Arena used for the 1932 Winter Olympics. When Lake Placid won the bid for the 1980 Winter Olympics, they added a huge addition to the arena. This is where the Miracle on Ice took place.

 

This final bit of information might be of interest to you. I went to middle school and high school with Alexis Devlin. Her older brother Art graduated a few years before we did, and worked as a pilot for a brief time for my former stepfather at Adirondack Flying Service. Their parents were Art Sr. and Helen Devlin, who ran Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn. The summer after my Freshmen and Sophomore years of college I worked as a chambermaid at the Motor Inn. I sometimes filled in as a Night Auditor and worked the front desk, which was next to a large display case filled with Art’s sports memorabilia.

 

From his Wikipedia page: “Art was an American ski jumper who competed during the 1950s. A native of Lake Placid, New York, he finished fifth in the individual large hill at the 1950 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, which were held in Lake Placid. Devlin also made five Olympics teams, competing in the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics, where he finished 15th and 21st in the individual large hills, respectively.” Devlin, along with fellow Lake Placidians J. Bernard Fell, Ronald MacKenzie, Jack Shea, James “Bunny” Sheffield and Vern Lamb, also led the effort to bring the 1980 Winter Olympics to Lake Placid.

 

Reverse side of 1980 Winter Olympics participation medal.
Reverse side of 1980 Winter Olympics participation medal.

1980 Winter Olympic Commemorative Medal Details

  • Size: 76mm
  • Weight: 202g
  • Designer: M. Jovine / N. Kennedy
  • Obverse: Collage of competing athletes
  • Reverse: Lake Placid logo surrounded by Olympic oath
  • Production: 10000
  • Participants: 1072
  • Material: Nickel / Silver

 

 

 

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