When the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (Lpooc) decided to go Greyhound on Friday, officials said everything would be all right, the professionals were on their way. Leave the driving to them.
Today, as thousands of shivering spectators waited for buses all over the Olympic area, Robert Kranick, one of four Greyhound supervisors working here around the clock, said, "We are faced with an impossible task."
There now are 310 buses in operation. Kranick says even if that number had been doubled, the situation "still would have been a disaster. Each additional bus would have caused more congestion and the same delays."
Spectators experienced delays of up to 2 1/2 hours today trying to leave the women's downhill at Whiteface Mountain and the ski-jump area at Intervale.
Commissioner Robert Flacke of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, who now is coordinating the transportation system, said, "This is a reasonable time to remove 18,000 people when they all walk out at one time."
Not everyone agreed. After waiting outside in the Whiteface parking lot for 1 1/2 hours, Terri Senecal of Worcester, Mass., retreated to the jammed cafeteria for warmth. "I couldn't stand it anymore," she said, massaging her bare toes. "I've got frostbite. Self-diagnosed. I've had it before, I'm supersensitive."
Spokesmen for the New York State Olympic Task Force said that 150 people had been affected by the cold at Whiteface. Seven ambulances, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were dispatched.
Spokesmen also said that one person with a suspected case of frostbite had been taken to the hospital and released and that there had been one case of hypothermia.
John Szczpaniec, of Buffalo, said he left the race a little early to get a head start on the crowd to the buses. When he got to the bottom, Sczpaniec said, "There was not one bus there."
Sgt. Glen Held, of the New York State Police Command Control Center, said, "At noon, with 15,000 people, there were eight buses."
And 14 state troopers. Szczpaniec said that when the spectators began to stream down the mountain and through the woods, "the cops lost control. The people blocked off the area where the buses were supposed to be so they (the police) closed off the highway. People were swearing at each other and were ready to fight."
That, Szezepaniec says, is when he decided to get away from the crowd. 'It's dangerous," he said, "they should definitely shut the thing down."
Reports of the snafus filtered back to the press center. When a spokesman from the Olympic Task Force learned that reports had been on the scene, he checked the facts and said "no point trying to keep the obvious a secret."
It is no secret in Lake Placid that the transportation system is not working. Some believe that no transportation system required to move 35,000 to 40,000 spectators a day in a village of 2,700 could have worked.
Kranick said, "I don't want to go carte blanche and agree. But I can't contest its truthfulness.
Kranick said that the state transportation plan "was not the plan we would have implemented had we been brought in from the very beginning. We would hav insisted that only one bus company was operating , so that all control would have been with one person.
The problem, Kranick explained, is that there are overlapping events and not enough buses to service both areas. "Tomorrow we are going to have to move 11,000 people to Whiteface by 11 a.m. and 11,000 to the ski jump at 12:30.
"We'll still be bringing buses to the ski jump at the same time that people will want to leave the alpine," he continued. "We'll have 23,000 people to move in the same 60 minutes. Even the Almighty can't do that.
"It is impossible to work a taxi service for this many people without delays. We couldn't have enough buses. They'd be stumbling all over each other and we wouldn't be able to park them."
For the most part, the spectators in Lake Placid have been good-humored and mild-mannered in the face of long lines, and even missed events. But as the mild weather turned colder today, tempers flared. Connie Durkee, of nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y., said "People were getting cross. We couldn't move, we couldn't breathe, and we couldn't see."
If these Olympics are for the athletes, she said, "they shouldn't have sold tickets."