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Bickford family's Olympic passion started in 1932

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Jim Bickford is pictured here with his bobsled in 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Bill Bickford)

As the 2014 Winter Olympics are going on in Sochi, Russia, they hold a special meaning for the Bickford family of Murfreesboro.

That special meaning goes back to the 1932 event in Lake Placid, N.Y., because Screen Art owner Mike Bickford’s father and uncle played a role in the Games.

Back in 1932, the Winter Olympics were held in the small resort town located in the Adirondack Mountains, and Mike’s dad, Bill, and his uncle, Jim, watched the bobsled events and fell in love with the sport.

However, it would be his uncle Jim, who became an Olympic legend in the sport.

Jim completed in four Olympics (1936, 1948, 1952, 1956) and he could have been in more, but the 1940 and 1944 Games were not held because of World War II.

During his career, Jim Bickford won a bronze medal in the four-man event at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He also was the flag bearer at the 1952 and 1956 Games.

“The whole family was so proud of him,” Bill Bickford said. “The fact he was able to compete, no matter if he won or lost, as long as he was bobsledding. That was his love.”

Back then, the bobsleds and the tracks that they raced on were much different than today’s version of the sport. For example, the sleds had wheels on them, which helped them go down the track.

Also, the track itself was very challenging. Today, the sleds have a futuristic look to them, and ropes are used to help drive them down the track.

“It does not look like as much fun, and high tech took over the sport,” Bill Bickford said.

Fast forward to 1980 when the Winter Olympics returned to Lake Placid, and Bill was a member of the United States Olympic Committee during the event. During the games, Bickford was a part of the team, which ran the luge competition that was held at the same location as the 1932 Games. However, luge was not a part of the Olympic program until 1964.
“Jim had a good friend who was a commissioner of the luge event,” Bill Bickford said. “I knew him and I wrote a letter telling him I wanted to be a part of it. That is how I got into it.”

Bill Bickford had several other jobs during those Olympics, including transporting some of the athletes to the various venues since a local bus strike happened during the event. He got to meet several interesting people on the trips, but it was a Russian who he remembers the most.

“It was a fun trip, and we were right in the middle of a Cold War with the Soviet Union,” Bill Bickford recalled. “I was doing some of the driving during the Olympics. I met this Russian who spoke a little English. I took some coonskin hats to it to give away to the athletes. He wore it everyday.”

After the Games, the athlete repaid Bill Bickford’s kindness by giving him a bottle of Russian vodka.

Jim Bickford died in 1989, and Bill still enjoys watching the Olympics. In fact, the Olympics have held a special place in the family's heart, dating back more than 80 years ago.

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bill bickford, bobsled, games, germany, jim bickford, olympics, winter
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