Some 34 years after the town of 2,600 residents was on the international stage, hosting the Winter Games, the Olympic spirit still burns brightly here.
Stop by the Olympic Center and sit down in the seats overlooking
Stroll down the block to the outside skating oval and you can picture
Drive outside town, and you can pull up to a ski jump where Olympians once soared about the treelines. Even in September, skiers practiced their aerials on a slope with plastic runners, and landed in a large swimming pool.
Imitation bobsleds decorate downtown streets, a museum offers memorabilia from the 1932 and 1980 Olympics that
"It was just the perfect setting for us. We were a blue-collar team with a great work ethic. And
"Everywhere we went, people were waving American flags and shouting, '
"It was a great time in a great place."
The "Miracle on Ice," as that hockey game has been called, will live in Olympics history.
But the people of
"We made a bid for the 1976 Olympics, but the committee gave it to Innsbruck," recalled
"The committee was impressed with our bid and we knew we had a good shot at the 1980 games."
Actually, it looked so promising that
The reaction? Many wondered if a town so small could handle such a giant event. But not the residents of
"No one else in the world had the Olympic experience we did," said Riley, who is now 83 and lives in
"We knew we could handle it and put on a good show."
Four years of construction followed. As the Olympics neared, the town's schools were closed for three weeks to get the venues ready. Snow was plowed from all of the town's football and soccer fields, then they were flooded and turned into giant parking lots, Riley said.
No public traffic was allowed downtown, and the village became a large pedestrian mall.
Just outside of town, a large prison that was being built was turned into the
"By the time the Olympics started, we were ready, " Riley said. "This was our moment."
"Some people wanted to get the heck out of Dodge," he said. "But my parents wanted to stay and show us history in the making.
"We had watched the arena being built, the ski hill going up, and we were excited. We couldn't wait until the athletes came into town."
Lundin remembers going to the opening ceremonies and being overwhelmed. Later, he did everything he could to watch as many events as possible.
"I climbed up on the base of a flag pole to watch
"I went to four hockey games, but not the 'Miracle on Ice' game. That was a tough ticket."
Still, it remains etched in his mind.
"It's amazing how many people attended that game," he said, joking. "That arena held a little more than 8,000 people, but 10 million people said they were there."
Lundin was there for the celebration. After the game, he and his family walked a mile from their home in
"Flags were waving, people were hugging complete strangers, people were singing 'God Bless America,' there were people on roofs," Lundin said. "It was just crazy."
Today, Lundin, 46, is the director of the
"We are still very active as an Olympics training center," he said. "It's safe to say that if you have any aspirations of being a Winter Olympian representing
To understand the enormity of the U.S.'s upset of the Soviet hockey team, you have to understand the times.
The two countries were immersed in the Cold War, and most of the Soviet team was made up of members of the
The American squad was made of amateur and college players, long on hustle but short on experience.
Shortly before the Olympics, the Soviets beat the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition, and "it really wasn't that close," Eruzione said.
But the Americans vowed that things would be different in the Olympics.
"We didn't want to be embarrassed again," said Dave Christian, a member of the U.S. team.
They weren't. From the start, Christian said, it was obvious that this was a different game.
"At the start, they were underestimating us," Christian said last week when he was in
"The Russian bus pulled right up to door, and the players marched right out," Schneider said. "There was no coming up to us and saying, 'Good game' or anything."
Later, Schneider and several other players turned their
"It was something I'll never forget," Schneider said. "I was just back in
"The town hasn't changed that much. It's still a wonderful little place."
(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services