Friday, February 01, 1980
On February 1, 1980, more than 1,000 visitors arrived at Mount Vernon before 8 a.m. to witness the passing of the Olympic Torch. The flame, lit in Olympia, Greece, was flown across the Atlantic and deposited at Yorktown to begin its journey to Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Though guests were doubtless entertained by the Fife and Drum Corps and The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, Mount Vernon Director John Castellani observed, “Sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds made attendance an act of courage.”
In honor of this special occasion, the following remarks were delivered by the Eleventh Regent Frances Archer Claiborne:
Looking over the route of the relay, I was struck by how fitting it is that the Olympic Flame will pause here at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, on its way to Lake Placid.
All along the route of the flame, there are reminders of Washington and his many contributions to the American nation. Yesterday the flame, carried so carefully from Greece, started north from Yorktown, the scene of Washington’s great triumph in 1781. It passed along the Washington-Rochambeau route, down which he had led his armies to victory. It stopped at Williamsburg, where Washington began his political career.
After leaving Washington’s home, the torch will be carried into the capital city which bears his name. It will make the first overnight stop at the Washington Monument in Baltimore. Later, ceremonies will greet the flame in Philadelphia and New York, the two cities where Washington served as the nation’s first president.
George Washington, who was one of the most vigorous men of his time, would surely have approved of the ideals of the Olympic Games. His life was directed by discipline, strength and the pursuit of excellence. It is these standards which are illuminated by the Olympic Flame and the runners who carry it. We are proud that Mount Vernon is a stopping place on their journey.
The Olympic Torch would return to Mount Vernon in 1996 in the hands of Darrell Green of the Washington Redskins.