Lake Placid Olympic Flame Tower
The 1980 Torch Relay ended here February 13 where the final runner Chuck Kerr lit the cauldron and then it slowly rose 45 feet to the top and remained burning until the games concluded on February 24th, 1980. (photo from Lee Manchester)

Olympic Flame

"The flame was conceived as a symbol of the Olympic spirit as well as a symbol unifying Olympia and the host city of the moment, unifying the ancient and modern Games.

The fire not only stands for a pure ideal, because it is born fresh in the concentrated rays of the Greek sun, but it stands for man's supreme accomplishments: no animal but man has harnessed fire.

The Olympic spirit of brotherhood, pursuit of excellence and understanding, is said to be embodied in the flame. The flame unites as it is passed from hand to hand. It rises, pursuing the highest places and it illuminates the dark corners of misunderstanding."

by George Christian Ortloff
Chief of Ceremonies and Awards, LPOOC
(copied from 1980 Olympic Torch Relay brochure)

The Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee has the responsibility of bringing the Olympic Flame from Athen, Greece to Lake Placid to formally open the XIII Olympic Winter Games on February 13, 1980.

The flame, which is lighted at at ancient Olympia by the Hellenic Olympic Committee, is handed over to the LPOOC in the solemn ceremony in the 50,000-seat stadium in Athens.

The flame is flown to the United States, and after landing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, it is carried by runners almost 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) to the site of the Games.

The Torch Relay within the United States, a very complex production involving over 60 persons and nine vehicles, takes nine days to complete, and represents many substantial in-kind contributions (vehicles, food, lodging, torches, uniforms, and more), by communities, companies and individuals.

The Torch Relay serves two purposes: first, it gets the flame from Olympia to Lake Placid with appropriate honors befitting a "distinguished visitor from abroad". Second, it serves to involve millions of Americans in the Olympic Games who might otherwise not see any part of them, and it serves to herald the start of the Games with a great deal of pre-Games publicity.

By the time the flame reaches Lake Placid, millions of people will have shared the thrill of seeing it pass through their cities, and sent it on its way with their own enthusiasm. For many, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

For the 52 men and women who will carry the torch to Lake Placid, it will be a similarly unique event. From every state in the union (plus Washington D.C. and the village of Lake Placid), these torchbearers have achieved the dream of a lifetime by being selected to carry the Olympic Flame. They will return to their states full of the spirit of brotherhood and friendly sports competition, and more than likely will spend the rest of their lives inspiring others by their example.

In every way, the Olympic Torch Relay will have been worth the years of planning: the time and effort donated by people in each city through which the torch will pass; the dedication of hundreds of volunteers at the LPOOC; and the generous contributions of thousands of individuals and many large corporations will have born fruit in one of the most inspiring celebrations of the decade, for all Americans.