The 13th Olympic Winter Games are coming and they're doing strange things to the way people live in the Northland.
The Games are due here next February. The question: when 2,000 athletes and trainers, 3,100 media heavies, 1,100 VIPs, 2,800 staff and employes and 50,000 spectators a day arrive in this town of 2,800, where do the real people go?
Plenty of them are wondering themselves, with only 11 months left.
One young man had it all worked out. He was going to move in with his girlfriend when he got booted out of his $225-a-month apartment.
Then his girlfriend got her eviction-for-a-month notice, too.
The girlfriend was baffled.
"I've only been going out with him because I thought he could get me six tickets to the Olympics. He's been going out with me because he thought I could put him up.
"Now neither of us can stay here, and he just found out that he can't get the tickets, either.
"It's terrible. I hear they are going to have a parking ban downtown. I won't even he able to sleep in my car."
The renters of Lake Placid aren't being eased out by any edict. The people in charge of housing for the official Olympic "family," as it's called, have all the beds they need lined up in area motels, hotels and the controversial Olympic Village just outside town.
The force behind the renters' dilemma is plain old American greed.
Landlords and homeowners find themselves in a position to lease out their properties for a month and demand more money than they might have sold them for a decade ago.
"A lot of people are saying, 'Heck, I can pay off the mortgage with one month's rent,'" said Roger Tubby, head of the Olympics Accommodations Control Committee. So they're moving out, moving their tenants out.
Big money is changing hands. Charles Walsh, a Lake Placid lawyer, just sold an acre of unimproved land in Lake Placid to the Austrian Trade Commission.The price: $108,000, plus commission.
Walsh, who has had talks with a number of prospective buyers and leasers, said most of the big spenders are representing trade commissions or companies. If they can't find a building to rent, they buy one.
"The prices unquestionably are very steep," he said, "but it's a matter of supply and demand. Right now, we have an artificially high demand."
The result: a gold rush.
It's wonderful for the people who own a little land or a house. Some of the better homes in town are commanding rental fees of $40,000 and more.
But it's not so good for the working man.
Ed Stransenback, head of press services for the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee, had a house trailer rented through next February. Like most Lake Placid deals, his lease was informal -- nothing written down.
Then the landlord came back a month ago and said the deal was off. Stransenback could either buy the trailer for $6,500 or get out Feb. 1.
"He said he knew we had a deal, but the stakes had changed. He just couldn't afford to pass it up. He said I should buy it. I could make enough renting to pay myself back. But I need a place to live."
The Olympic Committee says it lacks authority to do anything about price gouging or displacement of renters from private facilities.
It only has authority over motels and hotels.
Walsh, the happy lawyer, thinks the displaced multitudes will make do.
"There's nothing new about it," he said. "When I came here seven years ago, it was impossible to find a year-round rental. You lived in your apartment for eight months and then in the summer you fended for yourself.
"The summer people were willing to pay more than you could. It's no different now. It's just more intensified."
The great housing hubbub fits right in with Petr Spurney's view of Lake Placid's remaining Olympic problems.
"The challenge of Lake Placid is transportation and housing," said the man who was brought into put out the fire.
Spurney arrived in Lake Placid last fall amid burgeoning reports of cost overruns, sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest in Olympic preparations. He signed on at $100,000 a year plus incentives for cost cut-backs. His mission: To put the Games back on track.
He has ironed out the kinks well enough that the concern now is no longer whether Lake Placid will actually be able to deliver a winter Olympics.
The Games will go on.
The question now is whether anyone will be able to get there to see them.
"It takes 13,000 people, roughly, to run an Olympics," Spurney said last week. "We have room for them.
"After that, the accommodations for people who want to buy tickets are minimal. We're talking about hotels and motels as far away as Albany and Montreal, with bus service to the venues."
One problem is that the bus and ticket arrangements still aren't made. Both plans are due sometime this month.
The people in charge of putting together these facilities indicate the following:
Olympic tickets will be available on some kind of first-come, first-served basis. Names of people who have already applied are being stored in a computer.
A maximum of 51,700 spectator tickets will be available for any given day. They will cost from about $10 to about $60, with the cheapest being for minimally popular outdoor events like cross-country skiing and the most expensive for indoor events with limited seating like hockey and figure skating.
About half the total ticket allotment of about 550,000 has been alloted to the participating nations, the teams and local people, Spurney said. The remaining 200,000 to 300,000 tickets should go on sale soon.
Those who attend will have to use public transportation of one kind or another.
Some staying in the distant locales will use buses or planes to get to the area, then another bus to get to the venue.
There will be mammoth parking lot in the countryside, 20 miles or so from Placid, from which buses will run to the event.
All this, Spurney made clear, is the last of his worries. "We are building an Olympics for the athlete," he said. "There will be some spectators, but to 600 million people it is an event that will be viewed through television."
ABC is the network that won the bidding war for the winter Olympics. The bid was $15 million, but that was the least of it.
ABC, as part of the agreement, has to provide live feeds of events as they happen to television outfits from all the participating nations.
That means cameras and crews must be on hand to record it if the Italians sweep to victory in the biathlon, even though no one in America gives a hoot.
It also means that ABC's $15 million bid is overshadowed by the $25 million it will spend getting the job done.
Big money is being spent. Last fall, for example ABC workers swarmed over Whiteface Mountain, laying cable to provide for end-to-end coverage of the ski-racing events.
They had it covered. Except for one thing.
ABC's urban crews lacked a little knowledge about the wild outdoors. Porcupines, it turns out, love the taste of the plastic used to cover TV cable. They ate it all. Forty-seven miles worth.
This is not the first time Lake Placid has played host to an Olympics. In 1932, it hosted the third Winter Olympics. Times were a little simpler then.
There were no glamorous down-hill skiing events and the indoor skating rink built for the competition cost $220,000. The new one built for the '80 Games will run $16.5 million when it's done next summer.
But the problems weren't all that different.
In the Lake Placid News of Sept. 12, 1930, the Olympic Committee warned that "penalties will be exacted... of any persons found overcharging guests or attempting profiteering.
"It is the spirit of the community that the residents of Lake Placid, while deserving and earning a return equal to their high August rates, will not risk the community's reputation by overcharging," the committee warned.
And the Saranac Daily Enterprise a few weeks later reported on another meeting at which it was pointed out that "the proper caring for the through (an expected 10,000) is probably the most important single issue facing the Lake Placid community."
The issue creating the most trouble around Lake Placid of late is the jail, er, the Olympic Village.
The village is going to become a jail after its initial job of housing 2,000 athletes and trainers is done. It will be a federal minimum security youth prison, which is a nice name but a lockup nonetheless.
That has some of the teams a bit miffed.
Serge Lange, the Austrian journalist who founded the World Cup skiing competition in Europe, was at Placid earlier this month for the ski racing and he had a few things to say about the village.
"I was there yesterday," he said. "It was disgraceful. What would you think if the Germans had put the Olympic Village in Dachau?
"This is not the image of the Olympics. It is always in the Olympics that the small details ruin it. It is too bad, because the (other) facilities here are very good."
Lange predicted that many countries would refuse to use the Olympic village, a 48-acre complex that will include dormitories, two cafeterias, two theaters, a disco, massage and weight rooms. It will be ringed by two 11-foot chain-link security fences.
But according to Spurney and others in the accommodations unit, the only feedback so far from nations involved has been from a few countries that intend to pull their top competitors out of the village for a day or two before their event, to psych them up for a victory.
"The key question," Spurney said, "has always been 'Will the U.S. put its people there?'
"The answer to that has been a resounding yes."
Lake Placid, a little town with fewer than 3,000 people and only one stoplight, is perched on the brink of a two-week international fantasy.
Spurney, whose stock in trade is optimism, sees no chance that it will not be a smashing success.
"We're going to create a problem for ourselves," he said. "It's always been assumed that there were only a handful of places in the world that could host a winter Oympic. When we get done, many, many more are going to realize they can do it, too."