Olympic 'forced march' spurs amity

"To hurry, walk." This variation of the old Army saying, "Hurry up and wait," applies to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. While not many are laughing here about the situation, the constant walking provides people from different nations opportunities to chat by the wayside -- and the talk of Lake Placid invariably moves toward politics.

But as the headlines stressed the political differences, especially between the Soviet Union and the United States, much of the talk here focused on similarities and bonds of unity.

Thousands who attended the colorful opening ceremonies Feb. 13 were forced to walk three miles back to Lake Placid because of the second major bus transportation snafu here in three days. The first occurred in Feb. 11 when only 80 of 300 buses scheduled to ferry visitors around showed up. On Wednesday , buses eventually arrived, but many people already had left to walk into Lake Placid.

Lake Placid Organizing committee officials promised anew to remedy the situation, which is attributed to labor disputes, equipment problems, and just plain poor planning.

I walked the three cold miles from the ceremony and enjoyed talking with some Soviet athletes -- who were, not incidentally, dressed a lot warmer than I, in brown for coats and hats.

"It's good," said one of the Soviet athletes about the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision Feb. 12 to go ahead and hold the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow despite President Carter's request that the games be moved or postponed.

The Soviet athlete went on to say he liked Lake Placid very much. He said he especially liked Whiteface Mountain, where the Winter Games are centered, and the friendly people.

The camaraderie between Americans and Canadians, meanwhile, was especially evident along the road in the wake of the tremendously warm reception the Canadian athletes got in the opening ceremony from spectators for Canada's part in helping to free some US hostages in Iran.

However, some Americans I talked to still felt resentment toward the Soviets. A man from Mississippi told me that he believes Amerians shouldn't turn the other cheek to the Soviets anymore.

But when it came to trading Olympic pins, all differences seemed to fade completely. The Soviet athletes eagerly sought to enlarge their collection of pins, and Americans and others couldn't have been more cordial in accommodating them.

Another sign of the efforts to bridge differences is the hospitality that many local families are showing people from other nations. In fact, the Soviet athletes have been more in demand by local residents than any other as dinner guests.

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