Of Reno/Tahoe Winter Olympic bids, ice skating and Squaw Valley

December 10, 2012

Well, a 2022 Winter Olympics in the U.S. has been put on the no go list by the USOC. It appears that the USOC and IOC have worked out their differences on the revenue front, it’s the time line that is the snag now. Since the USOC would have to seal its partnerships, sponsors and raise beaucoup dinero by the fall of 2013 to be considered, they decided it was just not enough time to do all the groundwork necessary to do the process justice. (30 million! Just to bid!!! Is it just me…or does this seem like an exorbitant extortion fee by the IOC?) The earliest bid the U.S. could possibly muster would be for 2024 or 2026. The Winter Olympics is the more hopeful option as the competition to host a Winter Olympics isn’t as intense as for a Summer Olympics.

The Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition is of course, disappointed. They haven’t written off the longer timeline, but their post as of July 2012 on the website indicates they need to have some discussions before they make any decisions on going forward. We’ll have to keep checking in to see what they ultimately decide. With areas like Denver, Salt Lake City and Montana also throwing their hat in the ring, we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that Reno/Tahoe is an underdog in this fight, or that we’d have some obstacles to overcome. The area has other very attractive traits to recommend it that far outweigh them, but we also have several government agencies and red tape to contend with that can fairly foul up the works. But that’s a post for another day.


This all ties into some issues made in Eva Rodansky’s book ‘Winter of Discontent’. She touched on a lot of points about the legacy of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games that got me thinking about the legacy of the Olympics here at the Reno-Tahoe area.

What it was as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley.

What it could be as the site of a Winter Olympics in the future.

What it is and could be as an Olympic training center – now, and for years to come.

We’ve always been a Winter Sports area. (Summer Sports too, but it isn’t the sort that draws Olympian’s…at least not until they have hiking and water-skiing as gold medal worthy Olympic Sports…) We have the highest concentration of ski areas in the nation, all situated around the 2nd largest alpine lake in the country. As scenic Olympic sites go, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Winter at Lake Tahoe (Photo by M. Portesi)

Winter at Lake Tahoe (Photo by M. Portesi)

Eva’s book also touched on some other areas that I could relate to. Underutilized venues and wasted opportunities. Her issues were with the Utah Olympic Oval. Mine are with the rink at Squaw Valley USA.

I hear Squaw has new owners. Sadly, they have opted to close the only Olympic sized ice rink for several hundred miles in every direction. I understand why they chose to do so. I’ll be blunt here. Whoever designed it had their head planted fairly deep and firmly up their hind quarters. They obviously knew absolutely nothing about ice rinks, or more importantly, how to design them to be financially viable. Obviously a venue whose sole purpose was for tourists to slide around on their ankles wasn’t it. I’ll confess though, while it lasted, I personally loved it. Where else could I have an entire Olympic sized ice rink practically to myself? On a glorious summer night, nowhere but Squaw. It’s no surprise they closed it. Given its myriad of problems, it must have been nothing short of a financial black hole.

All selfishness aside, it was unfortunately designed to fail.
It is however, a gorgeous location. At 8200 feet, it sports a spectacular view. That also means it requires taking a spectacularly expensive tram ride to get to it. That’s before you rent skates, ice time or lessons. Ice sports are already very expensive. Do you suppose the designers of the facility were thinking “Hey, why don’t we ratchet the costs up a few more notches by requiring a really big fee just to access it”? Clearly they weren’t thinking at all. The local recreational skaters couldn’t afford it, training programs can’t function with a rink open to the elements and tourists aren’t that interested. They come to Squaw Valley to ski.

Taking the tram to Squaw Valley's High Camp. (Photo by M. Portesi)

Taking the tram to Squaw Valley’s High Camp. (Photo by M. Portesi)

In the winter it was a completely outdoor rink, no walls, no roof. On a sunny winter day, it was really quite exquisite. I would imagine on a snowy winter day however, it was a five star bitch to deal with. It’s not uncommon to get 4 feet of snow at a go at that elevation. The Zamboni and its driver must have been groaning in agony. No doubt some poor soul had to shovel a good deal of it off first just to get it clear enough for the Zamboni to drive out and make a dent. Maybe they had a snow-blower, or a baby snowplow. At any rate, while scenic, it wasn’t very practical.

Winter ice skating at the top of Squaw Valley. Photo by M. Portesi

Winter ice skating at the top of Squaw Valley. Photo by M. Portesi

During the summer, the rink had a temporary roof on it, but the rink itself was still open to the elements. The wind can really rip up there, and it wasn’t uncommon to have your strokes slow to a snails crawl fighting the wind at one end – only to turn the corner and be hurled down the rink by it at the other. It certainly made for some interesting jumps and spins. The roof only shielded the ice from some of the summer suns intense rays, so it was also fairly common for the ice to have slush puddles clear down to the under layment.

But I digress. My point is it could have been soooo much more. In fact, it could have been amazing.

For a rink to be profitable, it isn’t the public skates sessions that keep them alive. It’s the hockey leagues, the figure skating lessons, the short track speed skating clubs, the curling enthusiasts, the competitions and events that bring in the revenues. All of these endeavors require some control of the rinks environment, which is impossible to do with an outdoor rink. The wind not only made control of movement difficult, it also left a fair amount of crud on the ice. And if the wind didn’t deposit it, the Zamboni’s wheels imbedded it in the ice while traveling over its open to the elements driveway. (We won’t get into the refusal to drop the blade on the Zamboni when resurfacing, which merely resulted in shiny ruts as opposed to shiny, smooth, clean ice.) An elite short track speed skater can get up to speeds in the 30’s and even 40’s. Hitting a chunk of sand at that speed would surely strip a blade and send the skater flying. Broken blades and bodies to follow soon thereafter.

And for the love of God, why weren’t there any plans for bleachers? You know, seats. A place where you could take a load off when you weren’t skating. A place where onlookers could take a load off while watching others skating. And God forbid, a place where A LOT of onlookers could take a load off and watch – for a fee – a competition of other people skating. The planners were clearly missing the boat here.

Just for grins and giggles, I’m going to go a little further into my arguments from fantasy. This is what I propose. The first thing the ice facility building needs is… well, a building. Something enclosed where the snow, wind, ice to crud level and temperature can be controlled. Now I’ll agree, most ice rinks are metal, zero ambiance tin cans. Certainly we wouldn’t want that spectacular view to go to waste, nor take away from the feeling of skating outdoors, which was the one shining element of Squaw Valley’s rink. So first, the building would need to be incorporated into the existing structure, be enlarged enough to get some bleachers into it, and have a steeply pitched roof to dump the snow wherever the groomers for the ski area could actually use it. Oh yeah, and some nice big windows to show off the view. Now we’ve got something to work with here. A facility that would be of greater use to a wider audience.

The existing outdoor rink. A building to house the ice rink would need to tie into the existing structure. (photo by M. Portesi)

The existing outdoor rink. A building to house the ice rink would need to tie into the existing structure. (photo by M. Portesi)

Squaw Valley is – and has been the home and training grounds to many an Olympic skier. With a rink situated at 8200 feet, that whole athlete ‘train high, live higher’ benefit would make it an excellent training facility for elite skaters as well. Imagine the competition and event possibilities. Imagine the Olympic training programs that would love to be at a facility like this. I know skaters are always complaining that they can’t find enough available ice time. Imagine the additional winter sports programs that could be made available to the local community. And as for competitions and events, wouldn’t you, as a fan, rather go to a venue located in an area like this than your average corrugated metal warehouse located in a sketchy part of town in suburbia that are the location of most rinks? I know I would.

Reno conducted a pole not too long ago that stated that #2 on the list of events Reno residents would like to see in the area was short track speedskating. Many of our current Olympic short track skaters who train in Salt Lake City are completely unhappy with their NGB, U.S. Speedskating. We as fans think the organization is completely broken, needs to be disbanded, and a new National Governing Body started that serves the skaters instead of the other way around. Such an entity would also be eligible for funding from the USOC to run the program.
See where I’m heading with this?…*hint*hint*

Hey, just sayin’…

So here is your chance Squaw Valley to show the USOC and IOC that you’re serious about bringing the games back to the Reno Tahoe area. We already have the ski areas. You have an empty rink. The Reno/Tahoe area has the capacity to be a winter sports training and recreational Mecca. All in an area that according to USA Today was voted the #1 Lake in the country. We’ve got it all!…and wouldn’t it be an enormous boost for our economy if the rest of the world knew about it!


Of Clothing and Controversies…

July 16, 2012


I’ve been neglectful of writing on the blog for the last year. Too busy trying to get my own house in order, and as Lori at Boots and Blades (see link to the right) does an excellent job of keeping up with all the short track news there, the blog was often redundant anyway.

And then there are times like these. Sometimes the planets align and events transpire that get the wheels of contemplation going, and I find I really have a lot to say…even if it does more often than not just fly off into the ether. Blogs are the perfect medium for such mental gymnastics, where there is more space to spill out what’s on ones mind than in a ‘tweet’.
So be prepared, this post may get a bit long winded…with a couple more undoubtedly equally long winded posts to follow soon thereafter. I’ve got some ground to cover and a few bones to pick. Starting with:

U. S. Olympic uniforms made in China has Congress steamed

This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows U.S. Olympic athletes (from left) swimmer Ryan Lochte, decathlete Bryan Clay, rower Giuseppe Lanzone and soccer player Heather Mitts modeling the the official Team USA Opening Ceremony Parade Uniform. Republicans and Democrats railed Thursday about the U.S. Olympic Committee’s decision to dress the U.S. team in Chinese manufactured berets, blazers and pants while the American textile industry struggles economically with many U.S. workers desperate for jobs. / Associated Press photo/Ralph Lauren/file

This week, our members of Congress are all up in arms and aghast over the realization that our Olympic Athletes will be trotting around London in uniforms manufactured not in the good Ol’ U.S. of A, but in our own personal little sweat shop known as the People’s Republic of China.

Now is this really new information that hasn’t been completely obvious to anyone over the age of three for a few decades now? Seriously???

Oh, wait. We’re talking about our government here. You know, those guys (and gals) so sequestered in their own little world of super PACs, insider trading and payoffs, that apparently what is going on in this country to 99% of their constituents comes as a complete and utter shock.

Excuse me while I quote your average teenager when I say: “Well, Duh.”

Where the hell have they been for the last few decades? Almost all of our manufacturing is overseas. Has been for awhile now. Our corporations sent them there. Our government paved the way for them to do it. And they say now that they didn’t know??? With our economy in the toilet and double digit unemployment for a good portion of the new millennium, now they’re surprised? Meh.

Not surprisingly, the general public has been equally outraged about the uniform flap, although I will say they have all missed the point- and the bigger issue entirely.

From the posts I’ve been reading on Facebook and the Boots & Blades Forum, this story has really hit a nerve with the Olympic sport of Short Track Speed Skating community and fans, with ensuing outrage of a totally different order. All of the posts have echoed my own sentiments, which evened out to:


1) Congress- Our gov’t/congress/taxes don’t support this country’s Olympic athletes financially (for the Olympic Games or their years of training to get there) so you abdicate all rights to snivel about their uniforms, foreign made or otherwise…
Cough up some coin to support them and then we’ll talk.

2) Congress! – You’re the ones who not only gave their blessing, but in many instances orchestrated all those ‘Made in the USA’ clothing labels AND jobs going overseas.

3) Congress!!! – It’s called ‘Capitalism’! But now that it’s our athletes clothed in its results at the Olympic Games, you cry foul on poor Ralph? (Berets Ralph? Really??? The clothes are still butt ass ugly, but that’s a separate issue…) Hey, it’s a business. Ralph does it for PROFIT. You know, that stuff you elected officials feel is the end all, be all…

4) At least Ol’ Ralphy bothered to support our Olympic Team, which is a lot more than can be said for a lot of American Companies. Congress complains about Ralph Lauren for doing what EVERY OTHER CLOTHING MANUFACTURER in the U.S. has been doing for decades. Get over it…or change it.

5) Congress equally balks at the USOC for wooing sponsorships from companies outside of the U.S.
Well, if American companies stepped up and opened their fat wallets after making all those profits from some overseas 5 year old working for a buck fifty a day, the USOC wouldn’t need to look outside of the States for sponsorship. The moola has got to come from somewhere and we can obviously rule out our government, American companies, members of Congress or CEO’s donating a portion of their mega million dollar bonus to the athletes cause.
In fact, when our government does get involved, athletes end up being little more than political pawns to make a completely gutless political statement. (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU Jimmy Carter…and No, I’ve never forgiven you for it. Nor do I feel you had the right to do it in the first place.)

6) Congress! – Before you do any more whining about the Olympic uniforms, I’ve got two words for you. Stupak Scholarship.

Yeah, that’s the one tiny little thing this country was willing to do for its Olympic athletes and future Olympians and hopefuls. A measly little million dollar scholarship program so they could get an education while competing and representing our country against athletes from other countries that had the full support and backing from their homeland.

Obama killed it. To be fair, Bush had tried to croak the program every year he was in office, Obama is just the one who succeeded. I didn’t hear Congress putting up too much of a fight over its demise. I guess it was much more important to cut that little million dollar program so there would be more towards the billions to bail out the rich banksters. I’ve met both Olympic hopefuls and Bankers. The former are much more honest and deserving.

7) Which leads me to ask this question. Who is the completely clueless government wonk who said this?:

“Olympic athletes [and hopefuls] receive generous support from a variety of sources.”


Congress – Are you high? Most elite athletes, especially in the less mainstream sports are living below the poverty line, many on food stamps. And how would you know anyway? OUR GOVERNMENT DOESN’T FUND THEM! This completely out of touch with reality mentality by both our elected officials AND the general public not only leads to a lot of financial hardship but also the oft heard phrase proffered to elite level athletes when they’re seeking desperately needed sponsorship- “So, you’re all set, then?” (See link below on this subject)

No, they’re not. Not by a long shot.

8) Congress!!!!! Why is it a person or company that busts its behind is deserving of the fruits of their labors- touted as ‘the American Way’, but when it comes to the athletes themselves, the fruits of their labors are entitled to everyone else BUT them? As one athlete put it:

“The ‘Olympic Dream’ frankly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You aren’t an individual, you are a “medal color” and the money people can make from that. It’s really sad to come to that realization.”

There are a LOT of people making money off the Olympics – or more accurately, the athletes. Sadly, for the most part, the athletes themselves aren’t one of them.

9) I have to thank Lori at Boots and Blades for this little gem she posted today.

30 Stupid Things The Government Is Spending Money On


I’m dumbfounded over this one. Truly. Our lawmakers are willing to pay for foreigners outside our country to get masters degrees? But they cut scholarship funding to our own Olympic Athletes???
Are they freaking kidding me???

10) Congress! -Gee, Hypocrisy much? Me thinks thou dost protest too much…

Which leads me right back to:

…”So, You’re All Set, Right?”…

What transpired last week was completely in sync with some points I wanted to comment on after reading Eva Rodansky’s book, ‘Winter of Discontent – An athlete’s experience of speed skating in America’.
This is EXACTLY the sort of thing she’s talking about. The difficulty of trying to train as an elite athlete while representing a country that does little to support its own Olympic athletes and hopefuls, and then adding insult to injury, works diligently to promote the general impression that if you ARE an elite athlete, then financially “So, You’re all set, right?”…

From what I’ve seen as a mere fan, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, mention this book, and the room becomes suddenly hushed, and all concerned immediately exhibit the sort of extreme angst, silence, nervousness and discomfort one would normally expect from a drug runner being patted down by a DEA agent that is a mere inches away from discovering the illegal stash in their underwear. Apparently many would just like to make the book ‘go away’ and pretend it doesn’t exit.

But hey,
A) This is America, not 1960’s Russia. So I can read – and talk about – what I like Comrade, thank you very much. And:
B) It’s my blog, so my rules. If it makes any fan or the general public of speedskating or the Olympics stop and think even half as much as it did for me, then it’s a book well worth reading. I’ll quote my own saying. “I have no patience with ignorance, it’s a 100% curable disease.”

Eva’s anger is palpable, and she certainly pulls no punches – on anyone. I personally like that in a person. Give it to me straight up, no chaser.
Her take on the general public’s (and obviously here, congress persons) perceptions on how our Olympic athletes are funded- or complete lack thereof – is spot on in my opinion.

You can download an e-version at either of these sites. (approx. $5)
Barnes and Noble:


I invite not only fans, but our elected officials to read up on this important subject. I encourage those who care about the Olympics in general, and short track speed skaters specifically to leave their own thoughts either here, on the Boots and Blades Forum and with your elected officials.
I fully intend to send the law makers in the links below this blog post…and any comments it generates.

So, are we all ready to rumble?

To contact the specific outraged lawmakers in the article:
Senator Harry Reid:

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House, John Boehner

Congressmen Steve Israel

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand,

Sen. Bernie Sanders


November 11, 2010

I’ve been seriously remiss on this site in keeping up (World Cup 2, American Cup 2 to name but a few…)
Just too much going on right now…

But the U.S. Short Track Team is sooooooo close to being the USOC’s Team of the month.
Voting ends November 12th…so get those computer mice clicking and VOTE!


USOC unveils plan for “America Supports Team USA” initiative

May 31, 2010

Nicole Saunches USOC

Click on the logo to go directly to the original article

The 2010 campaign is set to commence on May 31 and run through July 31

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is preparing to launch its second year of the “America Supports Team USA” initiative, which capitalizes on the patriotic period between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and provides Americans with opportunities to show their national pride and be part of the Olympic mission. The program will run Monday, May 31, through Saturday, July 31.

The campaign, which incorporates the tagline “Together We Win,” celebrates patriotism and raises money to support Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls. By further emphasizing the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams’ connection with USA around the most patriotic time of the year, the initiative allows the USOC to continue to bring programming to communities throughout the U.S. and support more Americans who want to pursue Olympic and Paralympic dreams. And new this year, people who visit http://www.teamusa.org will have the option to make a donation directly to a National Governing Body of choice (i.e. USA Wrestling), the USOC or U.S. Paralympics.

“As an Olympian who represented Team USA in Beijing, I would like to ask each and every American to make a donation to support Team USA,” said Olympian Cullen Jones (swimming). “The financial support and athlete programs provided to Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls are a critical component of Team USA’s success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

National Governing Bodies (NGBs) will also be heavily involved. “America Supports Team USA” will be featured at events such as: USA Wrestling’s World Team Trials, World League Volleyball matches, USA Track & Field’s Junior and Senior Track & Field Championships and Nike Prefontaine Classic, USA Field Hockey’s Women’s National Championships, USA Badminton’s US Open and Junior Nationals, and USA Taekwondo’s Junior and Senior Nationals. The initiative will also be supported in NGB publications and on their websites.

Major League Baseball teams have also supported the campaign. Several teams will run the “America Supports Team USA” public service announcement (PSA) at ballparks around the nation, and Olympians and Paralympians will throw out ceremonial first pitches at several ballparks in June and July.

Olympians and Paralympians featured in the PSAs and print advertisements include: Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Meryl Davis and Charlie White (ice dancing), Bill Demong (nordic combined), April Holmes (Paralympic track & field), Lisa Leslie (basketball), Evan Lysacek (figure skating), Marlon Shirley (Paralympic track & field), Apolo Anton Ohno (short track speedskating.), Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) and Seth Wescott (snowboarding).

“Like many non-profit organizations, fundraising is a critical element of our success,” said USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun. “The monies raised during this campaign will directly impact America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls.”

How Can Americans Help?

There are a number of direct ways that fans can show their ongoing support for Team USA:

* Log on to http://www.teamusa.org and make a donation to the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics or to a National Governing Body such as USA Wrestling.

* Text USA to 90999 to make a $10 donation

* Donate HHonors points or United Mileage Plus Miles

Where Does The Money Go?

Approximately 80 percent of the USOC’s operating budget goes directly to Athlete Support Programs. Below is an outline of some of the Athlete Support Programs offered by the USOC along with a brief description of each program:

Direct Athlete Support
Athletes who have demonstrated competitive excellence in important international competitions may be awarded Direct Athlete Support dollars, which includes tuition grants. The USOC Sport Performance Team works closely with the NGBs to determine how these dollars are allocated.

NGB Support Programs
The USOC aids NGBs by supporting services such as investing in state-of-the-art technology, specialized coaching and providing additional training camps and competitions.

Operation Gold
Operation Gold Awards are designed to reward athletes for top place finishes in a sport’s most competitive international competition of the year. The award amount varies from $1,000 – $25,000 depending on the year, the athlete’s finish at the Operation Gold competition and whether the athlete competes in a sport/discipline/event on the Olympic or Paralympic Games program or on the Pan American Games program. Additionally, in non-Olympic and Paralympic years, athletes who qualify for more than one award automatically receive the higher award. At the Olympic and Paralympic Games, athletes are paid Operation Gold for multiple medal performances.

Elite Athlete Health Insurance (EAHI)
Each NGB receives, from the USOC, EAHI slots to distribute to elite athletes. Distribution of these EAHI slots is based on criteria that have been developed by the NGB and approved by the USOC.

Tuition Grants
Tuition grants are intended to help defray a portion of an athlete’s tuition costs, and in doing so, encourage athletes to further their formal education in preparation for lifelong career goals. Grant amounts range from less than $500 to a maximum of $5,000 depending on athlete performance history and availability of funds for the grant. Approximately $70,000 is dedicated to this program annually.

Partnership Support Makes It Possible

Team USA’s corporate sponsor family plays an integral role in each and every day of an Olympian, Paralympian and hopeful’s training. Through the ”America Supports Team USA” initiative, Team USA partners have created unique opportunities for activation beyond the 17 days of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Hilton Worldwide will promote the initiative with a HHonors Points Donation Program. HHonors points may be donated in increments of 10,000. Each 10,000 HHonors points donation equals a US$25 donation. One hundred percent the donations collected will go directly to support the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams.

United Airlines will support the initiative by promoting their Charity Miles program in Hemispheres Magazine and during in-flight programming. During the month of June United Mileage Plus members will be encouraged to donate their miles to Team USA.

24 Hour Fitness will raise awareness about the campaign posting “America Supports Team USA” web banners on the company’s website, http://www.24HourFitness.com.

For more information on the “America Supports Team USA initiative,” please go to http://www.teamusa.org

About the U.S. Olympic Committee

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the sole entity in the United States whose mission involves training, entering and underwriting the full expenses for the U.S. teams in the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games. In addition to being the steward of the U.S. Olympic Movement, the USOC is the moving force for support of sports in the United States that are on the program of the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The initiative won’t launch until Monday, so I don’t see the Team USA donate button yet, but here is teamusa.org’s link to the website:


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