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Nevada's Olympic Legacy

<p>Fireworks go off at the start of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.</p>
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Fireworks go off at the start of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

On Friday, the 23rd Winter Olympic Games officially began with an opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

With all the pageantry and aplomb that comes with the games, we thought we'd look back at Nevada's own Olympic legacy.

After all, the 1960 Winter Games were held in northern Nevada and in what's now known as Olympic Valley, California -- near Lake Tahoe in Placer County.

Volunteers from UNR and across the area were enlisted to help make the games a success.

One of them was Karl Breckenridge. 

"I skied and I owned a Jeep," Breckenridge joked about how he got roped into being a volunteer.

He was part of a team of eight people who moved people, papers, film, food -- really anything -- that needed to be taken somewhere around Olympic Valley. They worked by ski, snowshoe, Jeep -- or an all-terrain vehicle known as a weasel.

He even took a yodeler up the mountain. The yodeler was there to give some Old World ambiance to the New World Olympics.

"The 8th Olympics were kind of a break out year for the Olympics because they had been held in the seven previous years in some pretty obscure places and some pretty obscure costumes and some pretty obscure events," he said.

But the events almost didn't take place in Olympic Valley -- then largely known as Squaw Valley -- because there was no snow.

Breckenridge said at noon on the day before the Olympics were supposed to start a storm rolled in, and the snow started. It snowed until the next day just before the opening ceremony.

"And I kid you not, two minutes before the Olympics were supposed to start, 12,000 people in the valley … the sun broke out over Papoose Peak, which was behind the jump hill at Squaw Valley," Breckenridge remembered. "Andrea Mead Lawrence starts down the hill in full sunlight … she carries the torch down. It was absolute clockwork. It was perfect. It couldn’t have been better."

However, things did not go as well when Lawrence handed the torch over to a speed skater who was supposed to light the torch that would burn through the whole Olympics, Breckenridge recalled.

The gas valve had been opened early and the skater was blown off the ladder by the blast.

He wasn't hurt but the torch went out -- which, obviously, is not supposed to happen. 

Another problem at the games was the lack of a bobsled and luge. The game organizers in California couldn't build a track because of financial constraints and the lack of proper terrain, Breckenridge said.

But it was too late to move the games to a venue with all the facilities. 

As far as personal memories, Breckenridge said he can't pinpoint a specific favorite moment. 

"I had a ball the whole time," he said, “It was fun for 13 days."

Karl Breckenridge, 1960 Olympics volunteer

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)