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Before the 1980 Games, the previous Olympics to take place in Lake Placid, New York, happened in 1932. And, like the 1980 Games' fiber optic network installed by the Bell System (the third in the U.S.), the 1932 Games had new communications technology installed in Lake Placid as well. The 1932 Olympics were the first to be disseminated via radio AND across the ocean via shortwave, which made it the first Games with a transatlantic broadcast. The radio was handled by NBC and CBS, but the connections to those stations' broadcast areas were provided by the Bell System.

The Bell System also wired up the city so that radio announcers could be on the sites of the events and give live color commentary. The bobsled setup was especially novel--a 50-pound wireless transmitter was installed on a sled (or on the announcer's back) so that the announcer could run, and describe, the route. The announcer was Lowell Thomas, who later did narration work for a number of Bell System films. It WOULD have been the first broadcast via bobsled, if not for the fact that the rider who came along in the sled had inadvertently knocked out the transmitter. (This information comes from a display dedicated to Thomas at Marist College.) Besides that, the company set up loudspeakers (at the time, called "loud-speaking telephones") at various points throughout the Olympics so spectators in person could hear live commentary and announcements.

Producer: Marlu and Associates
Music: Irwin Bazelon
Host/Narrator: Olympian and later ski-jumping television color commentator Art Devlin

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ


Release date: 08/01/2012





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