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Recalling Olympic Highlights
by Harry Spencer
Feb 24, 2014 | 590 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the Olympic Games scheduled to be wrapped up by the time you read this, I would probably be remiss in not comparing them to the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960

To begin with, this year’s version of the Games included almost four times as many athletes as competed at Squaw. Also, the number of events was equally four-fold.

One of the biggest differences in the two Games was that Squaw contained all of the competition in one venue. In Sochi, as with many other sites around the world, it was necessary to travel several miles to the various events.

While the Russian extravaganza cost some $50 billion or more, the 1960 Games were put on for a mere pittance by comparison. Actually, the State of California, under the persuasiveness of Alex Cushing, who was one of the owners of Squaw Valley, was convinced to pony up most of the money in 1960. Specifically, Cushing had single-handedly got the bid from much more qualified countries when he went to the IOC accompanied by his PR man, and a full-scale model of Squaw Valley with all of the facilities intact. What the International Olympic Committee did not know was that the facilities existed only on the model.

Returning to this country, Cushing then went to the California State Assembly, noting that he had only a lodge and minimum amount of ski facilities. He convinced them that California did not want to be embarrassed on the world stage and the funding flowed.

Much of the cost of the Sochi Games had to be attributed to the high-tech opening and closing ceremonies. By contrast, the ceremonies in ’60, staged by Walt Disney, were of a primitive nature.

One of the interesting facts I learned from reading USA Today was that the Winter Games have only been held four times in the US; Twice at Lake Placid, New York, once at Squaw, and once in Salt Lake City.

My connection with the ’60 Games was to manage the International Olympic Press Club, located on the top floor of the Mapes Hotel. The manager of the hostelry, Walter Ramage, gave me the keys to the room in the Southeast corner of the building and said “Close it up whenever you feel like it.” I immediately threw the key away and we went on a 24-hour basis, with some of the press actually sleeping there.

Our main intent was to have the Mapes mentioned as often as possible in the stories that went out. While we were some 45 minutes from the actual location of the Games, we were able to install a closed-circuit TV system from Squaw to the Press Club. With several TV monitors available, as well as a bank of typewriters, and Western Union runners standing by, many of the reporters could write their stories in shirt sleeves. One of the perks they also enjoyed while writing their stories was that the bar in the room was always open on a complimentary basis.

Many of the side-light stories, such as kidnapping the Russian Press Corps will have to wait for a future column.

Harry Spencer is a long-time northern Nevada resident.
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