Local Olympic spirit pioneers remembered | SierraSun.com

Local Olympic spirit pioneers remembered

Guy Coates, Sierra Sun columnist

The passage of the Olympic flame through Truckee en route to Squaw Valley on January 20th hallmarked the role of local winter sports enthusiasts in ringing in the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

A few old-timers recall that, in 1960, the Olympic torch flared gloriously above Rocking Stone Tower when the 8th Winter Olympic Games came to Squaw Valley. In that year, the old pioneer monument was honored in a landmark in salute to Truckee’s historic winter sports tradition, which spans over 100 years.

Church bells tolled and a large crowd braved the chilling winter temperatures during a ceremony conducted by the Truckee-Donner Chamber of Commerce. A relay of 33 ski runners from Tahoe-Truckee High School took the flame down from its last overnight stop at Donner Lake and, at one point along the route, the torch was hand relayed by a crowd of local residents up the steps, as the Truckee’s special torch was officially lit.

Before leaving Donner Lake, the Rev. Patrick J. O’Neill of Truckee’s Catholic Church conducted “a blessing of the torch” rite and when the flame arrived he joined the Rev. George Sumones, pastor of the Methodist High Sierra parish in a tolling of local church bells.

The late Constable, N.F. Dolley, then president of the local Chamber of Commerce, was instrumental in making arrangements for the flame on Olympic torch to be from the one that was brought from Norway by plane. Runners, made up of high school athletes in various towns, began the torch relay in Los Angeles and carried it north and across the Sierra.

Dr. Robert Affeldt, who introduced such ski figures at Halvar Halstad, Red Anderson and Wayne Poulsen, made the principal address at the foot of Rocking Stone Tower. He then read a communication for Jerry Carpenter, former director of the winter sports division of the state chamber of commerce.

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Many old-timers were honored, as Dr. Affeldt told of how in 1928 the Olympic Winter Games for 1932 had been tentatively awarded to California only to be lost a year later because the state had insufficient winter sporting background, although Truckee had been the locale of snow sports in one form or another since 1894.

Pioneers listed as having paved the way for the 1960 games were mentioned and included Wilbur Maynard, Harry O. Comstock, F.J. Pomin, H.F. Droste and E.C. Rogers, all of the Truckee and Lake Tahoe region.

Other names mentioned included Cecil Edmunds, Jack Matthews, Norman Mayfield, Gene Rogers, Red Anderson, Ernest Pomin, Bill Vern, Joe Henry, Robert Watson, Carl Bechdolt, Sir Harry Johansen, Allan Pollett, Ray Fellows, Kathleen Starratt, Albert Henry, Bill Bechdolt, Carl Bechdolt, Jr., and members of the Truckee Outing Club, the Lake Tahoe Ski Club and the Reno Ski Club.

It deserves mention that local sportswriters, the late Bill Berry and the late Carson White, two of the best-known winter sports journalists of that time, covered Truckee’s Ceremony Highlights as well as the 1960 winter Olympic games.

Guy Coates is vice president and research historian for the Truckee-Donner Historical Society. He can be reached through the Society at 582-0893 or by E-mail at tdhs@inreach.com.