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How Walt Disney changed the Winter Olympics forever

With the 21st Winter Olympics opening in Vancouver, BC on February 12th, it’s a good time to look back 50 years ago to the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley and how Walt Disney changed the Olympics forever. The book to read on that is Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games Squaw Valley & Lake Tahoe by David Antonucci.

The organizers had asked Walt Disney to provide the entertainment for the event and then later realized that tickets, parking, and security were needed and asked Disney to provide those too. Walt brought in big named entertainment, pageantry, and even ice sculpture contests that have now become part and parcel of every Winter Olympics.

I love all the little stories told throughout the book. And I learned quite a bit about the experience. For instance, I didn’t know that Walt had them build a replica of the Golden Horseshoe Review for the athletes village. Gunfights and stunt shows were also organized by Disney. I wonder how many athletes found themselves visiting Disneyland in the future.

It’s a great story that could have ended in Disney having a themed winter ski resort of its own, Mineral King. Alas, Walt died before the plans could be put into place.

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