Overview

90th Anniversary BadgeIn 1932, Lake Placid became the first U.S. host of the Olympic Winter Games, welcoming 252 athletes from 17 countries, competing in 5 sports over 14 events. The Olympic Winter Games returned in 1980, this time a much larger event consisting of 1,072 athletes from 37 nations, competing in 10 disciplines over 38 official events.

As the Olympics have grown each year, so has Lake Placid. We’ve been a training hub for athletes for 90 years, and the newly revitalized legacy venues will assist in sending athletes to the Olympics for the next 90 years. Fun Fact, the Adirondack Region has sent at least one local athlete to the Games every year since 1924!

This February 4-20, as we celebrate our 90th Anniversary and the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, we invite you to be your own version of an Olympian in Lake Placid and win great prizes doing so!

1932 History

Lake Placid was awarded the bid to host the 1932 Olympic Winter Games on April 10, 1929, after Godfrey Dewey, son of Lake Placid Club founder, Melvil Dewey, helped to make a bid to host the Games, after already establishing Lake Placid as a destination for international sporting events.

Once awarded the Games, Lake Placid had site selection and construction to do.

  • Olympic Stadium – A site was selected across from the North Elba town hall and adjacent to the high school building. A stadium track was built and once winter set in and the track was flooded and iced, a hockey box was built inside the skating course.
  • Olympic Arena – An indoor ice arena was not promised by Lake Placid as one of the facilities it would supply, although after IOC President Baillet-Latour visited, he said that the existence of such a rink would be a source of comfort and encouragement to contestants coming and in the case of inclement weather, there would still be a place for figure skating and hockey to take place. Work on the arena began on August 22, 1931 and was completed by January 1932. It was the first indoor arena used in the Winter Olympic Games.
  • Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bobrun – South Meadow Mountain, now known as Mount Van Hoevenberg, was selected as the site of the first bobsled run in North America. The first shovelful of earth was turned on August 4, 1930. On Christmas Day 1930, the run was opened to the public. Earth and stone were used to build the run, which was dug and blasted out of rock and forest. Following the tradition of European tracks each curve was given a name. Whiteface, Shady, and Zig Zag soon became respected and feared curves throughout the world. The 1932 Olympic Winter Games used the 1 ½ mile track.

Opening Ceremonies – February 4, 1932

The opening ceremony was held in the Olympic stadium. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York was present to open the Games. As the strains of the American national anthem faded away, the parade of the athletes began in alphabetic order. Each nations flag was carried in front of the delegation by a representative, marching alone. In passing, the flags were dipped in salute to the Governor.

It was the most impressive sight of the Games. The brilliant sun, the multi-colored uniforms, the sparkling blue ice, and the cloudless sky above.

Jack Shea, United States speed-skater and a native of Lake Placid, had been selected to take the Olympic oath of amateurism. Shea raised his right hand and spoke:

“We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of sportsmanship for the honor of our country and for the glory of sport.”

Closing Ceremonies – February 13, 1932

The III Olympic Winter Games, came officially to an end on February 13, including the final distribution of prizes. It was held in the Olympic stadium following the hockey game between Canada and the U.S. The four-man bobsled events were postponed until Feb 14 and 15 on account of weather conditions. The long-delayed and wished for snow-storm quickly covered contestants and spectators. Grouped in front of the grandstand, all except the speed skaters, gathered to receive their medals on the three-deck flag draped platform. Prior to the 1932 Olympic Winter Games, Count Henri de Baillet-Latour, President of the International Olympic Committee, instructs Olympic organizers at Lake Placid to construct a three-tiered platform from which winning medals can be awarded. Accordingly, a new multi-level stage is revealed for the first at the III Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. It becomes officially known in Olympic protocol as the “victory podium.” On February 5, 1932, Lake Placid native Jack Shea, becomes the first athlete in Olympic history to receive his gold medal atop the new podium.

The 1932 Olympic Winter Games produced memorable champions and was well on its way to becoming an international winter sports mecca. To read more about medal winners from the 1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid visit the virtual exhibit from the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.