Olympic spirit lights up torchbearer’s yard | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Olympic spirit lights up torchbearer’s yard

by Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe TribuneAfter a two-week run, Martin Hollay will be turning out the Olympic lights in front of his home today.

The 2002 Winter Olympics are no more and the rings come down today. No, not the rings in Salt Lake City — the rings in the front yard of Martin Hollay.

Hollay, a longtime employee of Heavenly Ski Resort who carried the Olympic torch on skis when it passed through town last month, found the gigantic rings in the front yard of his June Way home the day after he skied with the torch.

“The next day I looked out my window and said, ‘What the hell is out here?” Hollay, 82, said. “I was so surprised. My friends surprised me, I don’t know how they did it.”

Hollay’s friends at Heavenly, likely the same ones who nominated him as a candidate to carry the torch, left the rings in his yard as a gift. Crafted with a welding torch, rebar and colored outdoor Christmas lights, Heavenly hung the rings from the bottom of its tram as part of its Olympic celebration on Jan. 20.

Now, reluctantly, Hollay will tuck away a present he has cherished.

“This is the last night the Olympic rings will be up,” he said, his eyes gleaming. “I have lighted them up every night. Tomorrow they will be somewhere in my backyard.”

Hollay’s Olympic spirit is the real deal. Born in Hungary, he began cross country skiing at 10 years old. In 1956, he moved to San Francisco and then Los Angeles trying to find work as a glove maker. A cross country skiing race held at Tahoe in 1958 gave him his first taste of the basin.

“I saw the area, decided I liked it and that I would settle here for good,” he said.

Two years later he was busy helping to set up the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. He cut trails and set up shooting ranges for the Nordic, or cross country, events. This time around, he didn’t work the Olympics, he kicked back and enjoyed them. Hollay spent eight days in Salt Lake City visiting with friends, many Hungarians. Together they watched this year’s extremely competitive Nordic events.

His friend, Wendell Broomhall, a timer for this year’s Olympics as well as the 1960 games, got him a front row seat.

“He right away took us to the first row,” Hollay said. “The whole thing was right in front of you — just perfect. I enjoyed it so much.”

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