By Paul Post
Larger than life-size color action photos, antique winter sports equipment and dozens of early black-and-white images, all accompanied by detailed text tell the story of Lake Placid’s nearly century-old place in Olympic Winter Games history.
The newly-designed Olympic Museum, located near the Olympic Center’s Herb Brooks Arena, has a grand reopening on Dec. 9.
The project is part of a state-funded, $500 million revitalization of all six Lake Placid Olympic venues in anticipation of the Jan. 12-22 World University Games, with athletes from 50 nations competing in 12 different sports. But the museum, like improved sports facilities, will be an attraction that boosts regional tourism long after the competition is over.
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“We want to make the Olympic Center a destination for people,” General Manager Chadd Cassidy said. “This is an economic engine, a driver for this part of the world. That’s why the state made this huge investment.”
About $104 million was spent on Olympic Center upgrades alone.
Olympic silver medalist (1992, Albertville) and Hall of Fame figure skater Paul Wiley is director of sport for the Olympic Regional Development Authority. “All you have to do is be here in the fall with busloads of leaf-peepers coming in,” he said. “They’re absolutely coming to see where the Miracle (1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey Team championship) happened. They can’t wait to see the 1980 rink, the speed skating oval, the ski jumps.
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The victories and heartbreaks from each of these sites are frozen in time, captured by museum exhibits for visitors to share in the Olympic experience.
Upon entering, people are greeted by a large dramatic color image of alpine skier Andrew Weibrecht, a two-time medalist and Lake Placid native, competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Although born six years after the 1980 Games, he epitomizes the Lake Placid Olympic spirit and is a significant part of its overall legacy.
“Growing up here as an athlete was really special,” Weibrecht said. “Every interaction you have in Lake Placid has something to do with athletics, whether it’s the guy down the street who was an Olympian or another neighbor who was an Olympic medalist. It was so cool as a kid because you’re constantly surrounded not only by the Olympic vibe, that pride in the Olympics, but that innate knowledge that if this guy can do it and he’s just a normal guy, then certainly you can do it, too. That’s what makes this town so rich in producing Olympic athletes. It’s so doable and so accessible.”
What’s on display
Museum displays show equipment from the 1932 Games such as wooden skis, bamboo poles and a leather helmet used by ski jumpers. More than 250 athletes from 17 nations gathered in 1932, to compete in five sports despite economic hardships from the Great Depression. Then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was on hand for Opening Ceremonies.
By 1980, the Games had grown to include 1,072 athletes from 37 countries contesting in 10 sports.
The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team’s 4-3 semifinal triumph over a heavily-favored Soviet squad and eventual gold medal dominated the event. Sports Illustrated named it the Greatest Moment in Sports History, all documented at the museum
Right next to the Miracle on Ice story, a large blown-up color image shows speed skater Eric Heiden racing to one of his unprecedented five gold medals and four Olympic records at the 1980 Games.
Major upgrades to Olympic Village
Lake Placid sites see significant updates
Artwork, flags and posters from Lake Placid and other Winter Olympic sites trace the Games’ history through the years.
Schenectady-based LeChase Construction Services handled the construction. Orange Frame Productions of Richmond, Va., in partnership with Buffalo-based Hadley Exhibits Inc. did the exhibit work.
The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is available on-street and at a nearby municipal lot.