Anne’s Olympic Blog – #1 A look back

Team IDC journalist Anne Calder is blogging about her experience watching the Olympics from her home in Arizona. In this first installment, she remembers her trip to Squaw Valley in 1960 where she reflects on attending  Olympic events in person.

The 2022 Olympic Winter Games officially begin February 4 in Beijing, China with the Opening Ceremony. Due to the pandemic, only “selected” Chinese residents will be allowed to attend. No tickets being sold to the general public or to foreign visitors.

Like most of you, I’ll be watching from the comfort of my home. Chandler, Arizona is fifteen hours behind the host city, so dates and times could get a bit confusing. Figure skating will open with the Team Event. Ten countries qualified to compete in the four disciplines. The short programs and rhythm dance are skated by all the athletes. The roster is then narrowed to the top five teams for the free programs and free dance.

Every four years the very mention of the Olympic Winter Games takes my thoughts back to 1960. It was my first year teaching. I’d left Cambridge, MA and taken a job in California.  Squaw Valley was scheduled to host the Games February 18-28, 1960. Four of us ordered tickets for the Saturday and Sunday of the Washington’s birthday holiday weekend. We left after school on Friday and were quite nervous because a heavy snow storm in the Squaw Valley area had delayed the Opening Ceremony on Thursday. The eight hour drive from San Bernardino landed us at our Reno, Nevada hotel around midnight. We were too excited to sleep, so arose early and headed 45 miles west to the Olympic site. Our $7.50 daily ticket allowed us to see all the events on the East and West Rinks, the Speed Skating Oval, plus all the ski competitions. We weren’t permitted inside Blythe Arena, where the figure skating competitions and some hockey games took place. Ironically, two years later I returned to the Olympic site and skated at the same Arena. Both days, we did watch some skating practice plus two hockey games at the outdoor rinks, where we stood around the boards because of limited seating. The ski jumping was near the indoor arena. People were sitting on broken down cardboard boxes watching the event. After returning home, I watched the rest of the Games on my small black and white television. The coverage, while not as sophisticated as it would become, showed places I had just been. When the USA Hockey Team beat the Russians, I had a feeling of deja vu because I had watched some of the players practice.

The comparison between the 1960 and the 2022 Olympic Games is outstanding. The first live telecast of the Olympics on American television was from Squaw Valley.  CBS paid $50,000 for the broadcast rights.  The current Games will be broadcast in the U.S. by NBCUniversal as part of its US $7.75 billion contract to air the summer and winter Olympics through 2032. In 1960, 30 nations and 667 athletes competed in 27 events. In 2022: 91 nations and 2871 athletes, will compete in 109 events. In 1960, the daily ticket was $7.50, a season ticket was $60.00 and a season Arena reserved seat was $200. Since Beijing didn’t sell any tickets, I checked the 2018 event in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The individual tickets were $141 to $1739 depending on the event. Bundling was recommended for a cheaper cost.

  • Figure skater, Carol Heiss took the Olympic oath on behalf of all the athletes. Five days later Heiss won the Women’s gold medal. 
  • The speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey events were held on artificial ice for the first time in Olympic history.
  • Men’s, Women’s and Pairs were the figure skating disciplines. Ice Dance was introduced in 1976.
  • The Men/Women single skaters competed only in Compulsory Figures and a Free Program.
  • The Pair skaters performed only a Free program.
  • The ski lifts were available for sight-seeing or recreational skiing for $5.00 when they were not carrying athletes, officials and press in that order of priority.
  • Physical limitations held the crowd to 35,000 daily, including the 8,500 holding Arena reserved seat tickets.
  • Walt Disney produced the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

~ Anne