Northern New York community works to preserve its Olympic legacy

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 7:45 PM EDT
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NORTH ELBA, N.Y. (WCAX) - The Olympic flame cauldron built for the 1980 games has seen better days. Now, town officials say it’s time for the community to come together to protect their Olympic legacy.

“Keeping this torch alive represents keeping us alive,” North Elba Town Supervisor Derek Doty said.

Lake Placid is located in the town of North Elba and the communities are working together to make sure the Olympic spirit still burns brightly here. They’re looking for a way to repair the Olympic cauldron used in 1980.

“Now we’re 43, 44 years away from that event, and we’re in need of dire renovation,” Doty said.

The flame cauldron’s base has sustained damage over the years due to age and exposure to harsh elements.

“Our winters are harsh and any water that leaks behind the stone loosens it up. Every year, there’s a little more deterioration... The whole face of this base needs to be torn apart,” Doty said.

But improvements are on the way. The North Elba Town Council allocated $20,000 to rehab the cauldron’s base, but people say they have bigger plans for the structure and will likely need more money to complete them.

“We kind of envision that this would serve as an information center, perhaps a welcome center,” said Lori Fitzgerald, the chair of the North Elba-Lake Placid Community Development Commission.

Lake Placid is famous because of its rich Olympic history, hosting the 1980 and 1932 Winter Games. Thousands of tourists visit every year. But the area is tiny compared to the major cities around the globe that have also hosted the games. That means they don’t have the kind of cash on hand to complete this project without asking the community for help.

“We are fortunate to be the site of two Winter Olympics. This is a small town with 3,500 to 4,000 people that can welcome the whole world here every day of the year,” Doty said. “This is easily a million-dollar project. To raise a million dollars in a little community of this size could take us a year, maybe two years.”

Although those leading the project say they recognize it is a big ask, they say the benefits will be worth the upfront cost.

“The Olympics is what put Lake Placid on the map. So, it is who we are. It’s a critical part of how we show ourselves to the world,” Fitzgerald said. “Technology is different now. So, the water vapor barriers that we’ll be able to put behind it are very different than what was available 40 years ago, 45 years ago. So, hopefully, something that gives it some longevity and allows us to really be proud of it being out here and be able to perhaps use it a little more than we do now.”

The rehab project is still in its early stages. The town says they’re working with construction teams and community groups to work on the design while they begin fundraising for the $1 million project.