The 13th Winter Olympics were opened formally today, with pomp and pageantry, with parachutes and pyrotechnics, and with goodwill toward most of the athletes. But the bus system stranded most of the 25,000 in attendance.
The opening ceremonies went off without a slip -- well, one, when a teenage figure skater fell doing a dance routine -- until it was time for everyone to leave. Shuttle buses were few and far between, and most of the crowd hitchhiked or walked the three miles to town.
Vice, President Walter F. Mondale had the best transportation of all. He arrived in a helicopter a few minutes before the start of the ceremonies and left a few minutes before the extravaganza ended.
While he was around, Mondale and the rest of the crowd shivered in 20-degree temperatures for a 90-minute presentation highlighted by the traditional parade of athletes, a multicolored fashion show with a backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance.
The ceremonial Olympic flame was ignited over the heads of about 1,300 athletes from 37 countries.
Originally, 38 nations were to have been represented, but Taiwan asked the International Olympic Committee today to excuse it.
A Taiwan skier had sued to be allowed to carry the Nationalist Chinese flag and use the name of the Republic of China. The IOC had reserved the name of China for those athletes from mainland China, which this year has its first Olympic team. A U.S. court ruled against the athlete.
Outside the stadium, a dozen Taiwanese demonstrated briefly, carrying red and yellow banners inscribed, "Republic of China Yes -- Taiwan No."
But this was not a day for politics at the Olympics, although Gov. Hugh Carey of New York hoped for "contest without conflict" and said, "Let us all take the light of the Olympic fire to dispel hatred between human beings." a
Mondale probably gave the shortest address of his life. "On behalf of the president of the United States and the American people, I am pleased to declare the opening of the 13th Winter Olympics held this year in Lake Placid."
End of speech.
Greece, by tradition, led the march of athletes. The Canadian team was cheered warmly, still another "Thanks Canada" message for sneaking six Americans out of Iran. The reaction to the Soviet Union team was polite.
About the only Soviets marching were Olympic officials, trainers and administrators -- the entire Soviet hockey team was missing -- and as they walked into the stadium, many Russians waved to the crowd. There was some waving back, a bit of applause and hardly any discernible booing.
The Russians clearly had the most impressive apparel -- switching from sable coats worn at Innsbruck four years ago to sealskin in 1980. But the Americans, obviously, drew the loudest cheers of the day.
Figure skater Scott Hamilton carried the U.S. flag and 108 of his teammates in brown sheepskin coats, blue jeans and white cowboy hats -- the good-guy look -- laughed and waved and blew kisses to the crowd, which reciprocated in kind.
"We finally have the best looking Olympic uniforms," said Dr. Richard Steadman, who treats the Alpine ski team. "It's interesting that the Soviets wear sealskin coats and we capitalists wear Levi's. But, in some way, I think that reflects the true nature of the countries. I think the Russians may be more status conscious than we are."
The lighting of the Olympic flame was the day's most stirring moment, even if an ABC cameraman was perched on the red carpet a few feet away for an up close and personal look at Dr. Charles M. Kerr, the Arizona psychiatrist who carried the flame to its final destination.
The rest of the program was full of the stuff that makes you switch channels at halftime of the Super Bowl.
There were flying doves, bombs bursting in air, balloons and lots of music, including The Washington Post March as the first number of the afternoon.
The prices also were rather Olympian. It cost $50.40 to get into the stadium. A 12-ounce glass of hot, spiced wine was $4, the same price as a ham sandwich. A two-ounce pop of bourbon was $3.50, and coffee and hot chocolate went for $1 a cup.
Veteran Dettlef Gunther of East Germany zipped to an early lead in defense of his 1976 Olympic gold medal tonight with a track record 43.20 seconds in the first of four men's luge runs.
Earlier in the evening, Vera Zozulya of the Soviet Union, running 19th in a field of 26 women, led from the top of the run in her bid to turn the tables on Melitta Sollman of East Germany in women's competition.
Gunther, virtually unbeatable when the chips are down in the oldest winter sport, did not have an exceptional start but picked up time through the Labyrinth -- a series of wriggles in the upper half of the course-to finish first.
His quest was aided when 1980's European champion Karl Brunner of Italy fell in the 13th curve and was eliminated from competition. Italy's Ernst Haspinger, the third place luger on his team, surprised everyone by bolting from the pack for a 43.43 time, which put him second.
Dainis Bremze of the Soviet Union was third in 43.56, Bernhard Glass of East Germany was fourth in 43.61, and Italian Paul Hildgartner was fifth at 43.65.
Hans Rinn, the gold medalist in doubles in 1976, was sixth in 43.80.
Besides Brunner, the 1,000-meter course took a toll of two other men, virtually wiping out the Swiss team, when both Markus Kaegi and Ueli Schenkel fell in the finish curve.
National U.S. champion Jeff Tucker of Westport, Conn., posted the top finish for an American, with a 45.16 run, good for 17th place.
A state trooper was injured today when a local motorist trying to crash an Olympic checkpoint dragged him 100 yards, state officials said.
Wolfgang Schacnenmayr, 37, a co-owner of the Adirondack Inn here, was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest.
State police spokesman Kurt Wachenheim said trooper Howard Finn Jr., a six-year veteran, was treated and released from Placid Memorial Hospital after suffering a pulled knee ligament and a sprained ankle.
Wachenheim said Finn, 30, of Troop K in Stormville, was checking traffic at an intersection here when the Schacnenmayr car slowed down but refused to stop as ordered.
Finn reached inside the car after being greeted with an obscenity, Wachenheim said, but the driver allegedly stepped on the gas and Finn's hand became wedged.
Wachenhiem said Finn was dragged for 100 yards before the driver heeded his screams to stop. When Schacnenmayer did stop, he allegedly shoved the trooper.
The seven-event Olympic cross-country skiing program will start Thursday without defending Olympic and world champion Sergei Saveylev of the Soviet Union, who failed to qualify among the 58 entered skiers from 19 countries.
Sweden's triple 1980 national champion Thomas Wassberg, 23, drew the favorable last start, No. 58. enabling him to control intermediate times of all gold medal rivals throughout the race, which will be run three times over the original loop laid out for the women's 10 kilometer race Feb. 18.