1980 Winter Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XIII / 1980
Host city Lake Placid, United States (Venues)
Opening ceremony 13 February
Closing ceremony 24 February
Competition dates 12 – 24 February
OCOG Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee
Participants 1072 from 37 countries
Medal events 38 in 10 disciplines


Lake Placid, like St. Moritz and Innsbruck before it, was given a second chance to host the Olympic Winter Games. With no other city wishing to bid, in the light of the problems experienced from 1968-76 by the Winter Olympic host cities, only Lake Placid remained as a candidate when it came time for the IOC to award the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. In the era of spiraling costs, Lake Placid promised a simpler Olympics, a “kindler, gentler Games”, though years before President George Bush. But the complexity of television, and millions of spectators almost proved too much for the small upstate New York village. Transportation and communication was difficult and the IOC vowed never to return the Games to such a small venue. The Lake Placid site was also plagued before the Olympics by complaints from environmentalists. But the Lake Placid OCOG worked with the environmentalists, really heralding a new era of “green Games” for the Olympics.

Politically, the IOC again had problems with the “Two China” issue. In 1979, the IOC had recognized the People’s Republic of China, based on the mainland in Beijing. The ruling stated that the island nation of China on Taiwan would henceforth have to compete at the Olympics under the name Chinese Taipei, and using a new flag and anthem. But Taiwan arrived at Lake Placid with the same flag, the same anthem, and uniforms that had Republic of China on them. The IOC refused to allow the nation to compete under that name, and Taiwan withdrew from the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in protest.

As if those were not enough problems, shortly before the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. President Jimmy Carter promptly called for a U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics. And he used Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to make this announcement to the IOC at their session in Lake Placid days before the Games started. The IOC was outraged at this blatantly political statement, when Vance’s task was simply to welcome the IOC to the United States.

But Lake Placid had two great redeeming features. Their initials were Eric Heiden and the U.S. ice hockey team. In speed skating, Heiden was the greatest skater in the world and pre-Games predictions had him winning five gold medals, though few believed he would actually win all five. But he did. He ended his Olympic dominance with a gold medal in the 10,000 metres. Racing in the second pair with Viktor Lyoskin (URS), Heiden had to beat the time of Tom Erik Oxholm (SWE). Lyoskin set an intimidating pace, which met with little success as Heiden ground Lyoskin down in the second half of the race, skating monotonously similar laps, and when Heiden’s 10K, and his Olympics, was over, he had a world record by six seconds and his fifth gold medal.

In ice hockey, the Soviet Union was by now conceded the gold medal at all Olympics. Their teams were the equal of anything the National Hockey League had to offer. A week before the Olympics, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. played an exhibition game in Madison Square Garden and the Soviets won, 10-3. But the U.S. team had more fortitude than anyone suspected and were led by a coach, Herb Brooks, who brought more out of them than they knew they had. In an early match against Czechoslovakia, Brooks shocked an American television audience. The Americans were close to victory at the end of the game when a Czech put a vicious, borderline dirty, check on U.S. star Mark Johnson. With the camera focusing on him, Brooks then told the Czech exactly what part of his anatomy would receive that stick if he tried it again. The Americans could not, and would not, be intimidated.

In the semi-finals they faced the Soviets. The score was tied in the 3rd period when captain Mike Eruzione scored to put the U.S. ahead, 4-3. As time ran out with that same score, Al Michaels, ABC television announcer, echoed everybody’s thoughts when he asked, “Do you believe in miracles?” Two nights later, the Americans defeated Finland to win the gold medal, and every American believed.

Bid process

The city of Lake Placid, New York (United States) was selected by acclamation at the 75th IOC Session in Vienna on 23 October 1974. The only other serious candidate had been Vancouver-Garibaldi, Canada, but they withdrew their bid on 4 October 1974 prior to the final vote.


Officially opened by Walter MondaleUSAVice-President
Torchbearer Charles KerrUSALit flame
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Eric HeidenUSASSK
Taker of the Official's Oath Terry McDermottUSASSK
Olympic Flag Bearer Chris LangloisUSABearer
Cliff WhiteUSABearer
David GossUSABearer
John PhilbrookUSABearer
Marie Ferrante McBrideUSABearer
Michael MotherwayUSABearer
Paul O'KeefeUSABearer
Rich MichaudUSABearer
Barbara HopkinsUSABearer
George BonfiglioUSABearer
Andrea Mead-LawrenceUSAALPEscort
Tenley AlbrightUSAFSKEscort
Al OerterUSAATHEscort
Willie DavenportUSAATH/BOBEscort
Barbara CochranUSAALPEscort
Sheila YoungUSASSKEscort
Edgar SeymourUSABOBEscort
Dick ButtonUSAFSKEscort
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Alpine Skiing Figure Skating Ski Jumping
Biathlon Ice Hockey Speed Skating
Bobsleigh Luge
Cross Country Skiing Nordic Combined

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 10 6 6 22
East Germany GDR 9 7 7 23
United States USA 6 4 2 12
Austria AUT 3 2 2 7
Sweden SWE 3 0 1 4
Liechtenstein LIE 2 2 0 4
Finland FIN 1 5 3 9
Norway NOR 1 3 6 10
Netherlands NED 1 2 1 4
Switzerland SUI 1 1 3 5
Great Britain GBR 1 0 0 1
West Germany FRG 0 2 3 5
Italy ITA 0 2 0 2
Canada CAN 0 1 1 2
Hungary HUN 0 1 0 1
Japan JPN 0 1 0 1
Bulgaria BUL 0 0 1 1
Czechoslovakia TCH 0 0 1 1
France FRA 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Eric Heiden USA 5 0 0 5
Nikolay Zimyatov RUS
3 0 0 3
Hanni Wenzel LIE 2 1 0 3
Anatoly Alyabyev RUS
2 0 1 3
Barbara Petzold GDR 2 0 0 2
Ingemar Stenmark SWE 2 0 0 2
Frank Ullrich GDR 1 2 0 3
Raisa Smetanina RUS
1 1 0 2
Vladimir Alikin RUS
1 1 0 2
Sepp Benz SUI 1 1 0 2
Hans-Jürgen Gerhardt GDR 1 1 0 2
Bernhard Germeshausen GDR 1 1 0 2
Vasily Rochev RUS
1 1 0 2
Erich Schärer SUI 1 1 0 2

All medalists at these Games