Matt Clark, who has been the town clerk here for the past 24 years, stayed home from work today. Clark's home is adjacent to the area at which the opening ceremonies were held and he took the day off to guard his property.
"You can't miss it," he said. "It's the blue house just beyond the debacle."
Clark, who described himself as an "aginer" ("agin" the Olympics) stood in his driveway directing traffic, cars and people to the cow pasture where the 1980 Winter Olympics would begin. A city slicker wondered if Clark was prepared to defend his home with a gun, if necessary.
He looked askance. "I have a deerhunting rifle in the house," he said. "But I would not be seen outdoors with a rifle during the Olympics. They've got so much security, it's pitiful. Anyone showing a gun out here ought to have his head examined."
At 2:30, as the ceremonies were about to begin, cars and buses were backed up past the house for a quarter-mile. Clark went inside to watch the TV. With eight children to feed, he had not been anxious to spend $50 on a ticket.
There was more snow on Clark's TV set than on the ground in Lake Placid. But you could make out the shapes of the first athletes coming "over the knoll" and into the stadium, as Jim McKay described it on TV.
One of Clark's five daughters, Cora, laughed, "Yeah, the man-made knoll."
It was built last fall, her father explained, so that there would be "more pomp and circumstance." Somebody apparently decided it would look better than marching in over a totally flat field.
There is a lot about Lake Placid that seems slightly unreal these days. Asking a town of 2,700 people to accomodate the Winter Olympics is a little bit like asking a 50-year-old man to fit into his buck-private's uniform or his wife to fit into her sweet-16 dress. You know she will get into it because, after all, she has to. But you also know she's going to worry about how she looks and whether the old gown is going to come apart at the seams.
Last week, it was the electrical system that came apart. There were two blackouts, one lasting 2 1/2 hours, because of the strain put on the system. Julius Barnathan, ABC's president of broadcast operations, said the equipment, "wasn't ruined, but it could have been. A backup generator has been installed."
This week, the official Olympic shuttle-bus system (spectators are required to leave their cars in parking lots outside town and take buses to events) came apart.
This afternoon, there were not enough buses to take the estimated 25,000 spectators back from the opening ceremonies.
This morning, one ABC employe said it took her an hour and a half to get to work.
Transportation coordination was so chaotic that the press officer for the Lake Placid Olympic organizing committee, Ed Lewi, admitted tonight: "Somewhere along the line somebody didn't pay attention to transportation."
Reports of spectators who paid up to $50 for tickets who were stranded and unable to attend abounded. One woman said she paid $17 for a ticket for a practice ski run and arrived after it ended.
A journalist complained of being ignored by the buses allegedly assigned to pick up press and spectators.
"You were one of the few (who complained)," Lewi said.
"There were 30 stranded with me," the journalist said.
"I'm told every day it'll be better, " Lewi said. "I've been told that for three days. The first day it wasn't better. The second day it was little better. Today it was quite a bit better.
He added: "We have not done anything to the public. We have not deceived them in our opinion. What we don't have is mass transportation. We never said we did."
Peter L. Spurney, the general manager of the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (LPOOC), insists the system is working. He admits he was "thrown a little bit of a curve" on Monday when only 80 of the expected 300 buses materialized. Some of the buses, which had been contracted through a Canadian company, could not pass state inspection. Later, when the New York State Department of Labor insisted that 140 American drivers be used, the Canadians said no.
The LPOOC went elsewhere for buses and now has 267 in operation, Spurney said.
The problem, he added, is that Americans are just not ready for mass transit. "People don't want to walk three blocks or wait 20 minutes," he said.
"I look out there and see buses rolling," he said pointing out of his office window on Main Street. "There are no traffic jams. The system is working."
Indeed, the town seems empty. Mary MacKenzie, the town historian, said, "I was on Main Street last night and it was a morgue. An absolute mausoleum."
Much of that is because Main Street has been closed to traffic and partly because these Games are far from a sellout. Lake Placid may end up answering the question, "What happens if you have an Olympics and nobody comes?"
As of this morning, the LPOOC had 50,000 tickets still available, not including those that tour operators had been unable to sell (tour operators had been allocated 50 percent of the half-million available tickets). "People were scalping tickets outside the arena for the hockey game last night," said Joe DeBonis, ABC's chief engineer.
"They were selling $30 tickets for $20."
A couple from Woodstock, N.Y., who did not want their names used because they called in sick at work today, decided to attend the opening cermonies last night when they heard that tickets were still available. They paid full price, but the tour operator, desperate to get rid of his tickets, threw in free round-trip bus fare.
Spurney said that the LPOOC is now doing $100,000 worth of business each day and that 85 percent of the tickets have been sold.
Although the first award ceremony is not until Friday, these Olympics already have some heroes -- the local volunteers manning the fire trucks and the ambulances. Some of these volunteers believe their good nature and patience has been taken advantage of.
Matt Clark, who lost a leg as a result of a bobsled injury in 1964, had to stand in line for an hour and 20 minutes to get his accreditation for the ambulance service. Judith Saxton, another ambulance volunteer, said that when she finally got her accreditation, she found that it allowed her to enter a site only in the event of an emergency.
"We've put up with the hassles for two or three years," Saxton said, "and we can't even get standing room."
One fireman agreed. "If there's a fire in a building, I might get in," he said, "but only if I'm lucky."
Robert Terwillegar, the owner of the Woodshed, a restaurant on Main Street just across from the speed skating oval, was sitting alone, sipping a beer, next to a sign that read: "This section closed." Terwillegar said, "I think we're all a little disappointed with the level of business we've experienced so far. It's a faux pas that we've made several times. We've spent so much time telling people how crowded it was going to be that no one came." Some LPOOC officials, he says, went on television telling people not to come.
Spurney said that one of the reasons restaurants are empty is their prices.
He had a point, Terwillegar is charging $30 per person for his prefixed Olympic meal. He said he invested $200,000 in his business that he would not have spent if not for the Olympics. He doubled his staff (and hired two people who stay all night since deliveries can only be made between midnight and 6 p.m.) and had to pay $14,000 to house that staff. He said he would not break even if he was charging $25 per person.
Terwillegar has a prime Olympic location. Monique and Wolfgang Brandenburg, owners of the Alpine Cellar, do not. The new traffic pattern directs people away from their restaurant. The night before the system went into effect, they served 120 dinners. The day after, they served 40. "It's worse than the offseason," said Monique Bradenburg, who is charging $20 per person, not including tax and tip. "I go to bed crying and I get up crying."
Not everyone is crying. In December, in Johanna Conway's shop, the Tradewinds, on Main Street, you could buy worms, ammo and a Washington Senators patch for your baseball jacket. Now, just about the only thing you can buy without an Olympic emblem on it is a Chapstick.
Mrs. Conway's son Louis, who is helping out in the store for the duration, said he thinks they will gross about $2,000 to $3,000 a day. A painting contractor, he said he tried three times to get a job with the Olympics and could not. He said he tried to rent the house he built for $45,000 and could not. "If I can't get it one way, I'll get it another," he said. "I'm going to sit back and milk everybody for everything I can get -- just like everyone else."
The other night, the proprietor of one local restaurant was congratulated by a customer for his reasonable prices. The proprietor grinned sheepishly and admitted an Olympic menu was about to go into effect. "I guess you could say we're all going for the Olympic gold," he said.