Tahoe celebrates 50th anniversary of Olympic Games

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Fifty years ago Squaw Valley took center stage for 10 days as the world’s best athletes competed in the VIII Olympic Games. This weekend the Tahoe region is pulling out all the stops in a 50th anniversary Olympic Heritage Celebration that runs Jan. 8 – 17. Beginning with the commemorative torch relay Friday, visitors will have 10 days packed with events to soak in the flavor of that historic time. “(The torch relay) will start at the Sugar Pine Point (State Park) cross-country venue and go around the west shore and into Squaw Valley,” Auburn Ski Club executive director Bill Clark said Monday. “Some of the original torchbearers from 1960 will be there.” That includes Starr Walton Hurley, who was a torchbearer at the opening of the 1960 Games and later became an Olympic athlete, Clark said. The torch will pass through several ski resorts including Homewood and Alpine Meadows. “We’ll have a really prominent skier, local resident Garett Driller, who will carry the torch at Homewood,” resort spokeswoman Rachael Woods said. “Bill Bowness, who is active in disabled sports, will carry the torch at Alpine.” A biathlon re-enactment is set for Saturday at Sugar Pine. “The biathlon was introduced to the Olympics during the 1960 Squaw Valley Games,” Northstar at Tahoe spokeswoman Jessica VanPernis said. In fact, Northstar is unveiling a biathlon range, which will be the first permanent one on the West Coast, she said. “We’re going to be doing a mock race and demonstration on Jan. 10 with (Olympic biathlete) Glenn Jobe,” VanPernis said. Thursday, Jan. 14, will pay tribute to the U.S. hockey team’s amazing gold medal win over the Soviets. Coach of the team, Jack Riley, will be an honorees, along with participating team members, that evening in the Olympic Village Lodge. “We’re expecting some of the hockey players from the gold medal team,” Clark said. “We’re still getting commitments from people. These are all folks in their 70s now.” Riley is among the approximately 20 athletes from the 1960 Games who have indicated they’ll be part of the festivities, Clark said. That includes downhill skier Penny Pitou, winner of two silver medals, who will give a presentation along with Squaw CEO Nancy Cushing, as part of opening ceremonies on Jan. 8. The big culmination of the week will be the Olympic Legends Gala on Saturday, Jan. 16. “It will be a big banquet with a multi-media presentation,” Clark said. “We’ve invited all the local Olympians from all the Games. It will be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime gathering of Olympians. It’s never going to happen again.” Tickets to the dinner are available on the Web site. Funds raised are going toward establishing the Squaw Valley Olympic Museum and Winter Sports Heritage Center. Clark, who is on the board of the ski museum foundation, said the Auburn Ski Club plans to move its artifacts into the new museum after it is built, which is projected to be several years from now. Squaw Valley USA, the epicenter of the 1960 Olympics, will host events each day. “People can tour the original men’s downhill course, and the women’s, too,” Squaw spokeswoman Savannah Cowley said. “It will be set up as it was in 1960.” Squaw will also have a display of 1960 Olympics artifacts at the resort museum at High Camp. Clark is part of the team planning the festivities, which has taken about two years and the help of hundreds of volunteers. From getting official licensing with the U.S. Olympic Committee, “which was a huge thing to get done,” to raising funds, “a lot of venues are funding things themselves,” it has been a well-coordinated community effort, he said. Numerous groups are playing a role. “The Olympic Heritage Committee, ski resorts, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, Placer County — it’s really kind of multi-faceted sort of thing,” Clark said. Gloria Young can be reached at For a list of activities of the Olympic Heritage Celebration Jan. 8-17, visit