Back in Time: In 1932, Roosevelt welcomed Winter Games to Lake Placid

New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomes 331 athletes from 17 nations to the 1932 Winter Olympic

New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt loved the lake. Irving Jaffee and Jack Shea loved the ice. And Eleanor Roosevelt loved the speed.

All four were in Lake Placid on Thursday, Feb. 4, 1932, the first day of Winter Olympic Games.

Roosevelt welcomed 331 athletes from 17 nations in a ceremony that began at 10:30 a.m. Five thousand cheered from the outdoor stands as a band played anthems from foreign lands.

The team procession was a big part of opening day.

“The United States ranks made a brilliant picture, in their white jackets and caps and blue trousers,” read a story filed by an Associated Press reporter. “They vied in display of color with the blue of the Italians, the red of the Germans and the dull black of the Japanese.”

The German delegation received some of the loudest applause. The country’s bobsled team had been decimated by two pre-Olympic crashes on Mount Van Hoevenberg that sent six members to the hospital. Sled member Werner Zahn, a veteran of World War I, marched with his left hand in a sling.

Later, people were cheering for Jaffee and Shea. Jaffee, described by a reporter as a “ferret on skates,” rallied in the last 100 yards of the 5,000-meter speed skating final to defeat defending champion Ivar Ballangrud of Norway. The winning time was 9 minutes and 40.8 seconds.

Shea, a 22-year-old Lake Placid native, won the 500-meter event in 43.4 seconds.

The United States was less fortunate in hockey, but Canada needed overtime to beat the home country, 2-1. In the day’s other hockey game, Germany beat Poland, also 2-1.

Besides bobsled, speed skating and hockey, medals were awarded in figure skating, Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined and ski jumping.

Eleanor Roosevelt was not on the U.S. roster. But she got the chance to ride the final half-mile of the Van Hoevenberg bobsled run with ace American driver Harry Homberger.

“She complimented Homberger on his skill in handling the sled, and Harry returned the favor by expressing his admiration of her courage,” The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. won the medal race with a total of 12: six gold, four silver and two bronze.

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