It is called the Miracle on Ice. In one of the major upsets in sports history, the U.S. hockey team defeated the powerful Soviet Union team on the way to a gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.
People who watched the closing seconds on television still vividly recall commentator Al Michaels’ stirring “Do you believe in miracles?” as the game ended.
“It still resonates with people,” said John Lundin, communications director for the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, which manages the facilities used during the 1980 Olympics.
The Olympics have generated many similar memories over the years, and this year’s Summer Olympics in London are sure to add to the list.
Former Olympic sites draw visitors eager to experience the venues they saw on television that produced these memories, especially in an Olympic year.
“The word ‘Olympics’ and Lake Placid will always be associated with each other, whether summer or winter games,” Lundin said about the small upstate New York community that was also host to the Winter Olympics in 1932.
Groups that want to catch some of the Olympic fever this year without traveling to London can check out some of these North American sites with Olympic connections.
“You can tour the Olympic Center, home of the Miracle on Ice, and the ski jumps from the 1980 and 1932 games and take a glass-enclosed elevator ride to what is now the 120-meter ski jump,” said Lundin.
The observation deck at the top provides panoramic views of the Adirondack Mountains and a bird’s-eye view of what the jumpers see as they start.
In front of the Olympic Center, visitors can walk around the outdoor speed skating oval, with views of downtown Lake Placid, where Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals in 1980, or strap on a pair of skates in the winter and try out the surface.
The Lake Placid Olympic Museum on the center’s first floor has torches, medals, skates, bobsleds and other Olympic memorabilia, such as the jersey and pads of U.S. hockey goalie Jim Craig.
Mount Van Hoevenberg is home to the bobsled, luge and skeleton tracks — Lake Placid was the last site to have separate luge and bobsled tracks — and the Whiteface Mountain ski area, 15 minutes from town, was the scene of the thrilling skiing competition.
“People can take a gondola ride to the top of Little Whiteface and can even ski the Olympic courses of 1980,” said Lundin. “A lot of people come to Whiteface just to say they skied the same course as the athletes in 1980.”
In addition to its historic venues, Lake Placid is one of three Olympic training centers operated by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and visitors can often watch athletes in training.
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At several sites around Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah, many of which remain active, groups this year can mark the 10th anniversary of the last Winter Olympics held in the United States.
“We have the Utah Olympic Park, site of the bobsled, skeleton and luge,” said Amy Kersey, communications coordinator for the Park City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are bus tours to the top of the tracks with explanations of the different sports.”
There are two museums at the park: One covers the history of skiing in Utah, the other has exhibits about the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The 400-acre park was also the site of the Nordic jumping competition. “A lot of athletes still do training there,” said Kersey. The training goes on even in the summer.
“The Flying Ace All-Star Show is a 25- to 30-minute show by former Olympians or those in training,” said Kersey. “They go off huge freestyle ramps and do flips in the air and land in a big splash pool.”
The Olympic Cauldron Park in Salt Lake City is home to the 72-foot-high 2002 Winter Olympics cauldron, a visitors center and the Hoberman Arch, under which athletes received their medals. Large outdoor panels tell the story of the games.
Visitors can try out the fast ice at the Utah Olympic Oval, about 25 minutes from downtown, which was the site of the speed skating events that resulted in 10 Olympic records and eight world records.