Bethlehem resident Mike Burgess examines the intricacies of the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid in his first book, "A Long Shot to Glory."
While growing up in the state’s North Country, Mike Burgess always had a strong connection to Lake Placid.
He began visiting with friends and family in high school and soon fell in love with the area. When it was announced the 1980 Winter Olympics would be held in the village because of a fluke, he was ecstatic and knew he had to witness some of the events.
“A major world event was happening in a place I was going on vacation for years,” he said. “It was like attending a ‘home game.’”
Burgess was 26 at the time and made the trek to see the ski jumping competitions. He did not witness the famous “Miracle on Ice” medal-round men’s hockey game in person, but he did see it play out on television.
“It united the country,” he said.
Burgess, of Delmar, continues to vacation in Lake Placid 32 years later with his wife and kids. As they visited the area over the years, he would hear interesting anecdotes not associated with the famous hockey game that he felt other people would like to hear, so he began holding interviews with the people involved with holding the games.
“I didn’t know I would write a book,” he said. “I started researching it and started learning stuff, and kept it kept snowballing.”
Now, Burgess has released his first book called “A Long Shot to Glory: How Lake Placid Saved the Winter Olympics and Restored the Nation’s Pride.” It tells how Denver had originally won the honor of holding the games, but had to withdraw because residents voted down a proposal to borrow to pay for the event. It also details how Lake Placid officials approached the task of financing, planning and organization the event without having to go into debt.
According to Burgess, at the time professional athletes who were sponsored were not allowed to compete and the games did not draw the big merchandising and sponsorships it does today. The cost of the games fell mostly on the country or region that won the bid.
To receive state funding, Lake Placid agreed to turn the Olympic Village into a prison after the games left.
“This was a matter of contention for a while because some felt it should be turned into an Olympic training facility,” he said.
Burgess interviewed more than 25 people to complete his 141-page book, including a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and various residents of the Capital District who attended the games.
Jim Plummer, of Delmar, was pictured sitting behind the Soviet goalie with friend John Furey in the Knickerbocker News. He told Burgess, “There was nothing compared to the intensity of that game.”
Burgess said with 50,000 people visiting events daily and the Olympic torch making its way through Albany to stop at the Empire State Plaza that year, lots of people have memories of the historic games.
“It’s interesting to see some of the same kinds of problems happening today as back then,” he said of the ongoing games in London, mentioning security issues and needing a professional to handle organization.
Burgess said the 1980 Winter Olympics is something that can never be replicated again.
“It’s often called, ‘the largest event ever held in the smallest place.’ My kids today can’t believe the games happened there,” he said.
“A Long Shot to Glory” can be found on Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and other locally owned bookstores throughout the Capital District. Its listing price is $14.95.