Olympic tradition and legacy flourish in Lake Placid

The small upstate New York village of Lake Placid has enjoyed a long Olympic tradition thanks to the two editions of the Olympic Winter Games it has hosted, which came 48 years apart, in 1932 and 1980.

The Lake Placid Games in 1932 marked the first time that the Olympic Winter Games had been held in North America – and the first outside Europe – and helped bring worldwide recognition to Lake Placid, leading to increased tourism, which has since been the backbone of the economy in the Adirondack Mountains.

The 1932 Winter Games also brought improved infrastructure and new facilities, including the multi-purpose Olympic Centre, which was specially built to host the figure skating events and six of the 12 ice hockey games – the first indoor arena ever used for the Winter Games.

The success of the 1932 Games helped establish Lake Placid as a leader in the resort and sports world and expanded the summer tourism season. From 1932 to the 1950s, Lake Placid also hosted more international sporting events – including speed skating, bobsleigh and Nordic skiing world championships – and produced more US Olympic athletes than any other American town.

By 1954, Lake Placid was eager to host the Winter Games again, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the world’s attention was once again focused on the Adirondack Mountains, as the region welcomed the Winter Games for a second time.

While some venues, such as the ski jumping hills, were rebuilt ahead of the Games, many of the same facilities were used again in 1980, including the Olympic Centre, which was once again the site of many memorable Olympic moments, not least the USA men’s ice hockey team’s triumph over the heavily fancied Soviet Union – a match that has since been known as the ‘Miracle on Ice’.

To ensure that the legacy of the 1980 Winter Games stretched beyond the memorable sporting moments, New York State announced its decision to place the responsibility for maintaining, managing and promoting all of the Olympic venues under one organisation – the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

The ORDA’s key initiatives have since been instrumental in nurturing Lake Placid’s status as a world-class winter sports centre, ensuring an ongoing Olympic legacy that has helped shape the region’s economy.

Since the 1980 Games, Lake Placid has hosted numerous world championships and World Cup events, highlighting the continued positive impact that hosting the Winter Games can have.

Over the last 30 years, other legacy initiatives have included the construction of the Olympic Training Centre in 1995, construction of the new combined bobsled, luge and skeleton run in 2000, improvements at Whiteface Mountain including the addition of a high speed gondola and, most recently, construction of the new Conference Centre in Lake Placid – a state-of-the-art meeting facility that opened in the spring of 2011.

These facilities have continued to improve the economy of the region, with tourism more than doubling since 1980, according to the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

As Sochi prepares to welcome the Olympic Winter Games to Russia for the first time, it can point to the example of Lake Placid and look forward to a long and continued Olympic legacy from the facilities that have been built along the Black Sea and in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana.

Travel back in time and watch our video from Lake Placid 1932


Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.