Friday, February 28, 2014

Winter Olympics Close At Squaw Valley

On Feb. 28, 1960, the eighth winter Olympic games close at Squaw Valley in Tahoe, Calif.

The Olympic Rings are still proudly on display at Squaw Valley ski resort in Tahoe, Calif.

Over 660 athletes from 30 nations participated at the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, in 27 events in four sports.

The Soviet Union took home the most medals with 21, and the most Gold medals with seven. They also earned five Silver medals and nine Bronze medals.

The United States finished second in total medal count with 10, with three Gold medals, three Silver medals and four Bronze medals.

The Germans finished tied for the third most medaling country with Finland, but had the second most Gold medals behind the Soviet Union as the Germans took home four Gold medals. The Germans would also earn three Silver medals and one Bronze medal.

Finland also earned eight medals, including two Gold medals, three Silver medals and three Bronze medals.

The 1960 Winter Olympics were special because for the first time women were allowed to compete in speed skating. The Soviet Union had requested the inclusion of women's speed skating events in the program for the 1956 Games, but the IOC rejected the request.

The issue was revisited for the 1960 Games, and since women had been competing internationally since 1936 and there was a World Championship for women's speed skating, the IOC agreed to four events; 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 meters.

The events were held on the Squaw Valley Olympic Skating Rink, which was an outdoor skating oval, and featured artificial ice, a first for the Olympic speed skating competition. Given the altitude and the artificial ice, the rink was the fastest in the world, as evidenced by Norwegian Knut Johannesen’s world record in the 10,000-meter event. At 15:46.6 he was the first skater ever to break the 16-minute barrier, and eclipsed the previous world record by 46 seconds.

Despite Johannesen's victory, the Soviets dominated the speed skating events, winning all but two of the races. Yevgeny Grishin won both the 500 and 1,500-meter races, though he shared the 1,500 meter gold medal with Norwegian Roald Aas.

Lidiya Skoblikova from the Soviet Union was the other double gold medalist, when she won the 1,500 and 3,000-meter events. Polish skaters Helena Pilejczyk and Elwira SeroczyƄska placed second and third in the 1,500-meter event, earning Poland's only medals of the Games and becoming just the second and third Poles ever to win Winter Olympic medals.
The ice hockey tournament took place at Blyth Arena and the Squaw Valley Olympic Skating Rink. Controversy over the amateur status of some of the players overshadowed the event. Canadian Olympic officials began to protest the use of "professional amateurs" by Eastern Bloc countries, and especially the Soviet Union.

They alleged that the Soviets were giving their elite hockey players phantom jobs in the military that allowed them to play hockey full-time, which gave Soviet teams an advantage that they used to dominate Olympic hockey tournaments for nearly 30 years.

This issue started coming to light during the 1960 Games and would culminate in a Canadian boycott of Olympic hockey tournament at the 1972 Winter Olympics. The team from the United States won an improbable gold medal, defeating the favored Canadian and Soviet teams, who took silver and bronze respectively.

This was the first Olympic gold medal in ice hockey for the United States and it would mark the last time a Soviet team would not win the Olympic tournament until the United States victory at the 1980 Winter Olympics.