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Weekend Stirs Olympic Memories
by Harry Spencer
Apr 01, 2013 | 2575 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A week ago Sunday was a sports fan’s delight. You had a choice between the NCAA Tournament, the PGA tournament in Florida, the Sony Open Tennis in Miami, Collegiate Boxing Championships in Reno and the National Skiing Championships at nearby Squaw Valley.

Of all those events, the one at Squaw Valley brought back the greatest memories. According to the fine book about those 1960 Olympic Games, written by David C. Antonucci, they had less than a snowball’s chance of happening. Antonucci’s softbound volume also features many photos of the event taken by a classmate of mine, Bill Briner.

Against all odds, the owner of Squaw Valley, Alex Cushing, captured the coveted Winter event from much more sophisticated venues in Europe. Even the head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, scoffed at Cushing’s bid for the Olympiad. It is little wonder that Brundage was joined by many members of the Olympic Committee since Cushing had first thought of making the bid as a marketing ploy for his then tiny resort. But once he was goaded by the opposition, he (Cushing) began to take the bid seriously and mounted a one-man campaign to wrest the Games from the more prestigious European locations.

In actuality, Squaw Valley was ill-prepared to host such a monumental event since it had but two ski lifts and a rope tow. Disregarding the actual amenities of the Valley, Cushing ordered a scale model to be built which showed the Valley with all the facilities needed to stage the Games already constructed. Along with his model, Cushing did have the overwhelming statistic that the average seasonal snowfall for Squaw was some 450 inches. Also the mountainous terrain would provide excellent slopes for all the Olympic ski events.

My first connection to the VIII Winter Olympics occurred in the late ‘50’s when we selected Cushing as the recipient of an Annual Award presented by the Sportswriters and Broadcasters in Reno. At that time newspaperman Carl Digino was the president of that group and I was the vice president. We gave Cushing his award at a weekly luncheon meeting in the Cal Neva Club in Reno. The award was for Cushing’s successful landing of the Games.

Several years later, in 1960, I was given charge of the International Olympic Press Club Headquarters at the Mapes Hotel. As far as I know it was the only time in Olympic history that such a club had existed. The actual press “hut” was located at Squaw but had none of the trappings of the Press Club on the top floor of the Mapes. We would accredit every member of the 600 or more press elite that covered the games by inducting them into the club and offering them the opportunity to cover the event in comfort in Reno some 60 miles away from the actual venue. This was accomplished by setting up closed circuit television from the Olympic site to the hotel, having a bank of typewriters for their use and three runners to take their stories to Western Union, which was less than a block from the Mapes.

Leading the World Press was TV anchor Walter Cronkite, New York’s Red Smith, Chicago’s Dave Condon and LA’s Jim Murray.

Harry Spencer is a long-tim northern Nevada resident.

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