The 1980 Winter Olympics -- the Games that will go on -- open in this cold, beautiful Adirondack village in 10 days.
After seeking for 32 years to bring the Winter Games here, despite taunts that villages of 2,700 people are too small to host the world -- or even the 36 nations coming to participate this year -- Lake Placid has a considerable emotional as well as economic investment in the upcoming 13 days of competition.
Lake Placid is on the verge of proving itself, as its boosters call it, "the little engine that could." Either that, or it will fall on its face, live, on international television.
It also finds itself playing host to Games that the more apocalyptic commentators are calling the "last Olympics." The current U.S.-led move to boycott the Summer Games in Moscow will destroy the Olympic structure they argue.
None of the Olympic promoters here is stressing apocalypse, but no one minds if the thought that this may be the last Olympics spurs Lake Placid ticket sales.
Tickets to all sports except figure skating and ski jumping are still available; motel rooms can be found within 40 to 50 miles of Lake Placid and tour operators say their Olympic packages have been selling slowly.
A new advertising campaign last week has helped, according to several tour operators and Olympics Press Director Ed Lewi. Lewi said the Olympic tickets always sell late, adding that about 40 percent of those to the 1976 Montreal Summer Games were purchased in the last month.
Lake Placid still was quite empty this week event though athletes had begun arriving at the Olympic Village where they will live during the Games. bWorkmen still were struggling with the final bits of construction.
Snowmaking machines are running around the clock as they have been for months in this astoundingly snow-free Northeast winter. Olympic officials are undismayed by the lack of snow and plan to hold every event as if the Adirondacks were adrift in the fluffly stuff.
The only contingency plan is to reduce the cross-country ski course so that skiers will travel a shorter track twice, but even that probably will not be necessary, Lewi said.
Lake Placid has become a village of metamorphosis. Where else does an Olympic village become a prison? A high school geography classroom, a clam bar? A broadcast center, a garage?
The transformations are planned so that Lake Placid's Olympic structures will have afterlives and they have caused controversy.
It has been particularly difficult -- despite the blessings of the International Olympic Committee -- to convince some participants that their athletes will enjoy living for two weeks in buildings destined to become a federal prison. The Soviet Union, where prisons are prisons, still is protesting what it alleges are inhumane conditions.
No Soviets athlete has arrived in Lake Placid yet, but 120 of the expected 1,400 athletes have moved into their rooms. None has complained publicly.
A member of China's first Olympic team ate his first meal in the cafeteria-style village restaurant and pronounced the variety of foods impressive. He wasn't sure exactly what he had eaten, however, when pressed by reporters.
For $27.50 a day, an athlete gets a single or double room, all the food he wants, served any time during the day, access to free movies ("Citizen Kane" was the first), free pinball games free transportation and a free disco.
Athletes also will be able to watch and assist a professional snow sculptor engaged to work throughout the games in the village's central courtyard.
The athlete's village is the center-piece for an elaborate security system here involving more than 700 New York State Police, elements of the FBI, the Secret Service and State Department security. There also 700 unarmed Pinkertons on hands.
A police SWAT team has been practicing ski maneuvers and at one point took over a motel for a drill in freeing hostages.
Some of the high-powered security experts got some real practice in early January when a man with a bad sense of timing staged the first bank robbery in the history of neaby Saranac Lake. He was caught and the money recovered in less than a hour.
An elaborate system of identification and security checks including "biosensor" German shepherds which can sniff out bombs inside packages, guards the entrance to the 36-acre athlete's compound.
Lake Placid High School has closed for five weeks to be transformed into a press center. The Associated Press is in the library. Kodak has installed a sophisticated darkroom in the chemistry lab and reporters can watch every event on huge TV screens hung among the basketball nets of the gym.
There will be about 4,000 media people here, almost three per athlete and 1,300 more people than live in Lake Placid in the normal times.
Liquor will be served and smoking will be permitted before high school rules are reimposed.
For Lake Placid, which played host to the Winter Games in 1932 when Sonja Henie won the figure skating gold and a press center could be a couple of rooms, getting this far has not been without problems.
The budget has risen from $86 million to $150 million; the original organizers were accused of nepotism in the award of an insurance contract; a mail solicitation drive resulted in a lawsuit and little revenue; two contractors went bankrupt, and the first president of the games collapsed and died at the dedication of the 70-meter ski jump.
Additionally, inspectors alleged there are flaws in some of the construction and a Taiwanese cross-country skier sought an injunction to halt the Games on the grounds that he wouldn't be able to ski as fast without the inspiration of his national flag and anthem which are barred because of China's presence.
Lake Placid gave up its goal of keeping the games entirely in local hands and, 15 months ago, brought in an outsider, Petr Spurney of Chevy Chase.
Spurney has become something of a specialist at bringing financial order to extravagent productions after working on the Freedom Train and the Spokane Exposition, among others.
Spurney signed on for $100,000 with the powers of chief executive officer and he said this week he is confident the games will break even.
The federal government put up $69 million, almost all of it for construction. New York provided $30 million and the games have had to raise about $47 million.
The Olympics Games got $15 million for television rights, $8 million from corporate sponsors who in return can call their product the official Olympic widget, $12 million from tickets (counting on selling 80 percent which Spurney said is well within reach), and about $12 million from fund raising, concessions, souvenirs, royalties and the projected sale of assets after the Games.
Spurney also is confident that the Games will overcome the nightmare problem of moving spectators into a village reachable by only three two-lane roads. An elaborate traffic plan calls for parking lots 10 miles away, about 300 shuttle buses, some temporary one-way streets and a main street completely closed to traffic
"I think it's going to be fun," Spurney said.