by Jim Riggs
February 9, 1980
Leery Of Lake Placid
Today I am off to Lake Placid for the Winter Olympics accompanied with mixed feelings of fear and excitement. When I first learned of this assignment in September I was elated. But after coming back to earth I began to consider what could go wrong during the Winter Games.
I clearly remember the tragic 1972 Summer Olympics and immediately pictured myself being taken hostage by some political group. I thought of my wife watching the action from Lake Placid on television when ABC’s Jim McKay would cut in and announce that an unknown group of militants, calling themselves KLUTZ, had taken over a Lake Placid laundromat. While wearing a grim look on his face, McKay would say, “We do not know all the details at this time, but we do know there were 10 people in the building and one of them is Jim Briggs, a reporter from Jamestown, N. Y." It would just be my luck my name would be announced incorrectly on national television.
The television cameras would constantly focus on the laundromat during the takeover while McKay filled the viewers in with new developments. But with my luck, soon I would be seen on camera being booted out the door of the building. McKay would then report that when contacted via telephone, the militants said they freed Briggs because they only wanted important people as captives.
My other fear of going to the Winter Olympics involved taking photos. I could picture myself standing on the slopes during the men’s downhill when a skier would lose his edge and come crashing through the protective fence into me. Soon the two of us would be tumbling down the mountain with his skis and my camera bouncing behind. ABC color commentator would later announce, “Reports from the slope say Franz Klammer is okay. He has only a few slight bruises. However, the photographer he collided with has two broken legs and a broken arm.”
As I thought more and more about attending the games the excitement overshadowed the fears. But then the Iranian situation had me worrying about hostage possibilities again and as more and more news came from Lake Placid, I develop new fears.
First, there wasn’t any snow at Lake Placid. Just my luck again. I get a chance to cover the Winter Olympics and the weather is like the Summer Olympics. Talks of moving the events really had me worried and I was getting desperate. Just when I was working out a plan to scrape the frost from my freezer walls and somehow pack it in my suitcase, Lake Placid was blessed with snow.
But there are more fears about going to Lake Placid. At the top of the list is the possibility of starving to death! Lake Placid is not a thriving metropolis. It has a population just three persons short of 3,000 and now will it be hosting people from all over the world for the Winter Olympics. The number of press people (3,200) alone will be the larger than the population of the Adirondack village. So where is everyone to eat?
Lake Placid has a limited number of restaurants. A few new eating establishments have been built but still conditions will be jammed. Many people will end up eating at the concession stands. Luckily I don’t drink coffee since it will cost $1 a cup at the stands. A junk food addict like myself will go nuts since no hot dogs or hamburgers will be available. Instead, they will sell chicken dinners at $5 a shot. After exhausting my finances from eating chicken dinners for every meal for three days, I might begin to drink coffee.
That’s is why I am taking along as much food as possible, particularly since there will be kitchen facilities where I am staying. But the main reason for taking food is to avoid having to purchase it there. The supplies will be limited and I will probably have to remortgage my house to buy a loaf of bread.
Things might get so bad that the black market will take over. I can picture the streets filled with starving people and some sleazy guy standing on the corner in a long trench coat. When I walk by he whispers, “Hey, buddy. Want to buy some food?” Then he will open his coat and display a lining covered with bags of potato chips, pretzels, candy bars, etc. After I step into the alley with him to purchase a Hershey’s kiss for $20, he might add, “If you want some really good stuff, check Charlie down at the corner. He has fresh fruit and milk!”
It probably won’t be that bad, but just in case, I am taking along an emergency package of Ho-Hos. I have also packed a couple of extra loaves of bread and jars of peanut butter since I can probably make a fortune selling peanut butter sandwiches for a buck apiece.
With moneymaking still on my mind I had considered towing a portable outhouse since there was a concern about a shortage of toilets at Lake Placed. By charging a couple of bucks a person, I could really come back with a bundle. But then when I got to thinking about of the lack of accommodations at Lake Placid and the surrounding area, I figured I could rent the outhouse to a family of four for $1,000 a week.
But finding an outhouse, particularly one equipped with snow tires, is not easy. So I abandoned that moneymaking plan. Also, I will probably get hungry during the drive to the North Country and eat all my extra bread and peanut butter and the go all the way by devouring my emergency Ho-Ho.
Then I will join the rest of the crowd and be forced to use my credit cards to purchase chicken dinners.