When we were kids, watching the Olympics was a hugely patriotic event. Even during the sixties when it was considered uncool to be patriotic, people took a break from their flag-burning to rally behind the good old United States of America. It was still the Cold War era, and while watching the Olympics, every blue-blooded American could take a punch at the great Soviet Republic just by cheering on our athletes.
I thought about that last night when the athletic delegations from Iran and Pakistan walked into the Olympic stadium. Grrrr!
I've personally, always preferred watching the winter Olympics over the summer games. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe, having grown-up in the snow-belt, I felt I could more closely identify with the athletes that participate in the winter games. Maybe it's an ethnic, northern-European-kinship sort of thing. Oops! I sound a bit racist!
In February of 1971, my parents took us on a winter vacation to Lake Placid, New York, the site of the 1932 Winter Olympic Games. We were supposed to be excited about that. I just remember thinking, "1932! The place must be crumbling by now!" I really had no idea what to expect.
At the time, newlywed Aunt Lynn and Uncle Al, were living in Albany. We resided in New Jersey and so, a trip to Lake Placid must have seemed like a good place to meet for a little family bonding. Don't forget, we didn't know Aunt Lynn's new husband all that well and I was leery of spending so much time with an uncle that didn't seem to know how to talk to kids.
My apprehension and anxiety were quickly relieved after our first day in the former Olympic village. Uncle Al had proven to be a truly good sport and a lot of fun. We rented snow mobiles, went tobogganing and were mushed around a frozen lake by a dog-sled team.
We even had the opportunity to watch an international bobsled competition. After traveling a short distance from the village, we parked and hiked up a wood and cement sidewalk-type structure that ran alongside the bobsled track. There were little bridges that would cross over the track every now and then, affording a direct view of the competitors as they hurtled down the track. Imagine allowing that today? What would happen if somebody were to throw or drop something onto the track? Consider the liability!
Mom and Lynn at the Olympic Bobsled Run, just before the announcement was made.
I was a little bored and antsy to leave, when the competition was halted briefly and an announcement made. Apparently, some crazy lady had practically blinded a few of the bob-sledders by taking flash photos of them from one of the bridges. Can you imagine? I can so clearly remember, the look on my aunt's face when my dad and uncle turned to her and said, "They're talking about YOU Lynn!"
The horror! We quickly made our way to the exit of the bobsled pavilion.
Over the years, we've visited a few more former Winter Olympic Villages. In 1996, while strolling a cobbled street through Insbrook, Austria, I heard my name called and turned to see an Austrian friend from Belgium sipping coffee at an outdoor cafe. Small world!
Rick at ski-school. He didn't last long.
In 1999, we vacationed at Squaw Valley outside of Lake Tahoe. The girls had never been skiing before, but we felt confident placing them in the safe, reliable hands of my brother Rob for the day. Within hours, they were all over the side of the mountain - having a blast - challenging themselves and each other to higher and slightly more difficult runs. Sadly, they had to be escorted down the mountain by the ski-patrol later in the afternoon.
Hmmh . . .
At a few minutes after mid-night, I nudged Rick to WAKE-UP! They're about to light the torch! Wait-a-minute . . . their seems to be a problem . . . with one of the. . . cauldrons . . .wait . . . wait . . .
FLOPPY HEADED CANADIANS!
AWE! Its still fun to be PATRIOTIC!
Above right: Rick skating at the Olympic arena
in Squaw Valley.