Serge Lang, the correspondent from the French sports newspaper, L'Equipe, has been to every Winter Olympics since 1948. He is the fellow who founded the World Cup ski tour, a big-bellied bear of a man whose growls have been heard on every major slope in the world.
The other day, Lang was asked his impressions of how the 13th Winter Olympic Games compared to the previous eight he has seen and covered.
"The transportation," he said, "is zero.
"The press facilities," he said, "is zero.
"The way the people are accommodated, in terrible hotel rooms far away and very expensive, is also zero."
But then, Serge Lang smiled.
"The sport," he said, "it is outstanding. They have conducted the Games precisely the way they are supposed to be conducted. But that is because the competition is being run by the individual federations of sport. They know what they are doing. These are not the amateurs from Lake Placid. And it shows.
"But I will tell you something else, my friend. In two weeks, people will forget about the buses, the prices, the commercialization, the worst I have ever seen.
"They will think of Lake Placid and they will get a tear in their eyes."
The Winter Olympics -- "apocalympics" as one local newspaper described them -- are over now.
Down on Main Street, where thousands had gathered to browse and buy, to gossip and shop, to eat and drink and revel over the heroics of Eric Heiden and the U.S. hockey team, life began to return to normal today.
Shopkeepers have posted sale signs everywhere. Cars, banned from downtown for 12 days, once again clog the streets. Hotel rooms, at reasonable rates, are available everywhere. You can buy lunch now and get change for your $10 bill.
And yet, there are those who will say that Lake Placid never again will be the same after these Games. The little town that couldn't did pull off the Olympics. But at what price?
Residents of Lake Placid who were told their local taxes never would be used to finance the Games now are wondering if they will be asked to pay any of the bills that seem certain to arise in the post-Olympic era.
Merchants and businessmen are wondering if all the horror stories of no buses in the early days, of outrageous ticket prices, of ripoffs in some hotels and restaurants will damage the reputation of this town that depends so heavily on tourism, summer and winter.
Lake Placid Olympic organizers are wondering, if they can, indeed, pay all their bills, balance their books and actually break even in this $150 million production.
Even now, there is talk that the LPOOC is financially strapped. Rumors have been rife that the next payroll will not be met on Friday, that the LPOC is on the verge of bankruptcy and terribly worried that lawsuits resulting from construction and transportation problems will cost millions.
Petr L. Spurney, the Bethesda trouble-shooter and general manager of these Games, says none of that is going to happen. "There are two things we should be judged on," Spurney said."The conducting of the sports and our financial picture. Did the little town in the Adirondacks pay its bills? Right now, that's within our reach.
"Our assets at the moment exceed our liabilities. We are going to sue more than we are going to be sued, and we haven't lost a lawsuit yet. How much did Montreal lose? A half a billion? How much do you think the Moscow Games cost? Here, we have a very good chance of breaking even, and that is why they hired me. I still believe we can do it."
Spurney is not the most popular man in town, however. Jack Wilkins, a local realtor who is on the executive board of the LPOOC, said the other day the bus chaos of the first five days of the Olympics could have been averted if Spurney had not been so tight with the dollar.
Wilkins said that all through December and January, when some potential problems already were quite apparent, Spurney told the executive committee, "Everything is all set, there's no problem."
"He nickeled and dimed the bus thing to death. That's exactly what he did," Wilkins said. "He was always looking for a sharper deal. That's why they went with a Canadian bus company, Rive Sud, originally, which wanted $325 a day for buses, while American companies wanted $400 to $600.
"He wants to go out a hero because that's his style. The only way he can do that is by balancing the income and the buses, so he cut down on the number of buses."
Vic Glider, director of New York State's Olympic operations, said "This has been management by crisis, this is what it's been . . . they (Olympic boosters in Lake Placid) will do anything for money. They'll kill."
Added another high-ranking state official, "They (Lake Placid natives) are the most greedy people in the world. I say it to their faces and they laugh at us."
Spurney denies he cut corners to put on the Olympics. He also denies reports that he will receive a substantial six figure bonus, if he does indeed balance the books.
And, he says, "When history looks back at these Games, I truly believe we will be treated fairly, that the real story will come out. If it doesn't, well, I know what happened here, I know what we had to deal with, and I can sleep at night.
"I also know millions of people watched these Games on television and they saw one heck of a show. They saw a well-run Olympics with outstanding sports facilities and that's what it's all about. They'll come back to ski Whiteface. They'll use the cross-country trails. They will return." t
"I believe we are going to flourish," said Ed Weibrecht, a local hotel owner and president of the Chamber of Commerce. "I think the chaos stories will be insignificant. I think people will remember the fact that all the Games and events were put on in an outstanding manner.
"Sure, we could have done some things better. When we're all perfect, we'll walk on water. I don't think anybody made a fortune on these Games. Yes, there was some gouging, but by and large, you had the opportunity to eat a good meal at a decent price, you could buy merchandise that was competitively priced. I think for the most part, we treated people fairly."
The people who were treated the best, of course, were the athletes. And that is who the LPOOC always said it was most concerned about in its effort for an "Olympics in perspective."
"From the technical aspect -- the conduct of the Games at each of the venues -- these Olympics were superior," said Col. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "And at the Olympic Village things went without any problem. It was excellent.
"The handling of the spectators, well, obviously there were problems that could have been averted with better initial planning. The transportation was terrible, but they fixed that. I don't think in any sense you could call these Games a disaster.
"After all, you have to look at the purpose. The Games are for the athletes. Our delegation was quite pleased with the way that end of it was handled. There could have been a lot more problems here. And there weren't."
Organizers claimed 85 to 90 percent of all their tickets were sold. There was one death -- a 66-year-old man had a fatal heart attack climbing up a hill at Whiteface to see the downhill run -- but no major catastrophes. And of course, the competition was memorable. Eric Heiden's five gold medals. Hanni and Andreas Wenzel winning four medals for tiny Liechtenstein. America's hockey team slaying the Russians, and winning the gold.
"I think we've done what we set out to do," Spurney said. "I just hope that's what people will remember."