Ti Welcomes the 1980 Olympic Torch
Our Adironack winters were twice brighten by the modern Winter Olympic craze, first in 1932 and then in 1980. Lake Placid being the community host both times. Ticonderoga was one of the host communities that welcomed the Olympic Torch and its runners, not once but twice. In preparation of the actual 1980 event, in 1979, Ti was one of the 11 “Flame Host Communities” to welcome the “flame” with its attending Torch Runners and its large caravan of support vehicles and volunteers.
In 1980 the “real Flame,” emblematic of the fire from Greek mythology and antiquity, was first ignited from our sun on Mount Olympus and left Greece on January 30th aboard an airplane which landed at Langley Air Force base in Viriginia. Following a “historic route” from Yorktown, Virginia the flame reached Ticonderoga, located at the foothills of the ancient Adirondacks, on February 7th, stayed overnight and then moved onto Lake Placid.
From the torch ceremonies at Silver Bay and Hague, Fred La Pann, a well-known area runner, led the torch runners into Ticonderoga where four Ti runners – Matt Karkoski, James Kingsley, Molly Austin and Tracey Swinton – circled the Liberty Monument and brought all to the steps of the Community Building. Mayor “Babe” Smith and town Supervisor Melvin Porter gave the official welcoming greetings. Mayor Smith then presented the Olympic Torch Relay team with a plaque which was to be placed in Olympic Archives.
The ceremonies moved then to Fort Ticonderoga. Led by the fort’s “Corps of Drums” the Torch bearer was greeted by a salute of cannons, bugle-horn fanfares and a Pass-in-Review by the “Drums” as it advanced to the fort’s northern rampart where stood the hosting Mortar Flame Receptacle that was to be lit. A Pennsylvania Rogers Rangers re-enactor group assisted with the colorful pageantry by providing a 21 gun salute from its period musketry. The fire burned continuously at the fort for the entire term of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Staying overnight in Ti the runners, volunteers, participants and community members were then treated to a great dinner banquet at the EMA Building. The Fort Ticonderoga Corps of Drums provided the entertainment.
52 Torch Runners were selected from 6,000 applications. Those chosen represented the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and one from the host community, Lake Placid. Their ages were 15 to 57. New York’s representative was Michael Luce, 37 and a native of Saranac Lake, was a teacher in the Glens Falls school system He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team in 1968 that were held in Grenoble, France.
Another well-know local runner, Dr. Robert Lopez, Westport, participated in 1980 Olympic Torch relay both here and in Lake Placid. Later in the year he was one of the organizers behind the “reverse” run between Lake Placid and Ticonderoga.
To assure the Olympic Flame never went out the flame was housed in several “miner’s lanterns” and carried in a supporting vehicle that attended the Torch Runners.
The Ticonderoga Historical Society has in its collection two artifacts of the 1980 Winter Olympics – a women’s luge sled and a starting gate from the same. The photographs shown are in the Mason Smith Collection.