“God meant the Olympic Games for Lake Placid, and God meant Lake Placid for the Olympic Games.”

The man who said that to Sports Illustrated in 1974 was Luke Patnode, a middle-aged son of a carpenter and former high school athlete who had spent nearly a decade on the committee to bring the Winter Olympic Games back to Lake Placid, a small community in New York’s Adirondack Mountains that had hosted the third ever Winter Games in 1932.

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Construction worker on site as early as 1978.

Unlike most Olympic sites, Lake Placid is not a major city, or even a large town. Nor is it a luxury winter resort destination like Chamonix, France, host of the 1924 Winter Games, or Squaw Valley, California, host of the 1960 Winter Games. Lake Placid is a true working class mountain village with a population of about 2,400 people, making it the smallest community in the world to ever host even one Olympic Games, let alone two.

When the Winter Olympics returned to Lake Placid in 1980, the event was marketed as a return to the soul of the Olympics –– to a time before the games became a platform for mass commercialization, corporate sponsorships, and the nationalist rivalries of global superpowers.

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A few spectators (photo credit: Fletcher Manley).

However, what made the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics so interesting is that they didn’t turn out to be just a cute idyllic throwback, but instead exemplified the world in 1980 standing at an uneasy transition between the old and the new.

The games may have been held in a small village in the Adirondacks and organized by a local Methodist preacher, but that village was also suddenly filled by the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people, as well as global television networks broadcasting the events live throughout the world.

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King Harald V of Norway made the trip over.

Even the styling of the posters for the 1980 Winter Games reflect an Olympics straddling between those two worlds, with some posters reflecting a charmingly early digital aesthetic while others look not just hand-drawn but hand-painted.

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Steve Bodborski won bronze in the downhill, and became the first ever non-European to reach the podium in the event.

But nothing symbolizes the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics’ place between two times and two worlds like the most famous event of those Olympics, “The Miracle on Ice” –– the United States’ 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in the semifinals of the men’s hockey tournament. On the one hand, it was a powerful victory in a nuclear-armed proxy war for world domination between capitalist democracy and authoritarian communism. On the other hand, it was a just an inspiring emotional win by a group of 20-year-old kids against an older, more talented, and heavily favored hockey team at a small rink in upstate New York.