All eyes were on Tahoe during 1960 Winter Olympic Games | TahoeDailyTribune.com

All eyes were on Tahoe during 1960 Winter Olympic Games

Sara Thompson

Tribune archivesThe Winter Olympics were held at Squaw Valley in 1960.

On June 17, 1955, something happened that changed Lake Tahoe forever.

Alex Cushing secured the 1960 Winter Olympics bid for Squaw Valley. He was a ski pioneer and the visionary behind bringing the global games to the area.

Within the short 4 1/2 years before the Olympic Games came to Lake Tahoe, motels, hotels, restaurants and freeways, including Interstate 80, had to be constructed to accommodate the droves of people attending and participating in the games. A few of the motels built on the South Shore at that time remain standing, but many were torn down to make way for redevelopment in the state line area.

The California Organizing Committee, the state of California, Placer County, the Squaw Valley team and many others worked together to make the event possible.

Preparing for the games was an exciting period with a lot of buildup, said Bill Briner, a photographer at the Squaw Valley Olympics who still lives in the area.

On Feb. 18, 1960, the games opened.

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“It was quite impressive, to say the least,” Briner said.

Briner said before the Olympics, not much building had been done up at the lake, and California wasn’t known for skiing.

“It jump-started the Lake Tahoe area,” Briner said.

South Lake Tahoe resident Martin Hollay was in charge of constructing the first-ever biathlon course for the Olympic Games. The event consists of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The course was built on the West Shore near Chamber’s Lodge. It was on private land, so it had to be disassembled after the games.

Hollay moved from Hungary to the United States in 1956. He said the biathlon courses were different in Hungary because, instead of using stationary shooting targets, they used balloons.

“We put balloons out,” Hollay said. “It was tough when the wind blew, because they moved all around.”

Hollay said he worked all summer on the course.

During the Olympics, a cross-country skier from Hungary couldn’t participate in the biathlon because he didn’t have a rifle. Hollay loaned him the rifle so he was able to compete.

Besides making history with the first biathlon event, the U.S. men’s hockey team made history as well.

Briner said one of the coolest things he watched during the Olympics was the U.S. team beating the Russians 3-2.

The team went on to win the United States’ first gold medal in hockey.

Even though the games were exciting, everyone breathed a little easier when it ended.

“Once it was over, there was a sigh of relief, because everything went according to plan,” Briner said.

– First Olympics held in the Western United States.

– First Olympics to be televised.

– Computers used to tabulate results for the first time.

– Frenchman Jean Vuarnet was the first Olympian to compete on metal skis, Allais 60s.

– The U.S. Men’s Hockey team won its first gold, beating Czechoslovakia 9-4, six of the goals in the last period.

– The Biathlon appeared in the Olympics for the first time.

Source: Squaw Valley USA Web site

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