1972 World University Games Original Design
Artist: Robert Whitney

In a walk down Main Street in Lake Placid, one can feel the pulse of the Olympic Village, and lately, there’s an extra thrill in the air. A palpable sense of excitement is building in anticipation of the 2023 FISU World University Winter Games. Fueling the fervor was the recent unveiling of the 2023 cauldron, a sight difficult to miss with its impressive 12-foot-tall carbon steel structure featuring pictograms of various winter sports.

As with any other aspect of the FISU Games, this cauldron was meticulously planned out with symbolism intentionally flowing from every aspect of its design. Such attention to detail was also the case for the cauldron at the 1972 FISU Winter World University Games, the first time these Games were held in Lake Placid. Previously, the FISU Winter Games were held in places across Europe in countries like France, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Finland, and Austria. This time, Lake Placid would once again be welcoming the world to their small Olympic town in February 1972, and the Organizing Committee knew they needed a simple but powerful logo to embrace the spirit of the Games. They started their search early, and by 1971 an artist and design were selected.

An interesting object of focus for the 1972 cauldron design is this piece of original artwork from Robert Whitney. A local Lake Placid designer, Whitney created the logo design for the 1972 FISU Winter Games. Before the Games began, his work was translated into the massive, colorful structure pictured here. The design captured the imagination of the Organizing Committee and was officially approved by the FISU Executive Committee at a meeting in Madrid, Spain in September 1971.

Whitney’s design incorporates the basic letter “U” with the five stars in different colors, representing the flags of the world: blue, yellow, green, red, and black, while the red stripes in the middle represented the United States. Whitney’s design was so well-embraced that the logo was adapted for the prize medals, pins, stationery, posters, flags – and even the cauldron. The cauldron officially came to life at the Opening Ceremony on February 26, 1972, when James Miller, a United States Nordic Skier, lit the flame atop the cauldron. That moment was, in itself, a nearly tragic historical incident when Miller lit the torch with his arm engulfed in flames.

This extraordinary cauldron lighting aside, the beauty in this design extends

beyond the artwork itself. A close examination reveals intimate details, such as the artist’s fingerprints, paint smudges, and eraser marks. These are minutiae that offer the trained eyes of museum staff powerful insight into the artists process and design changes. The final design of the 1972 FISU logo, for example, prominently featured a snowflake, a representation of


winter, that was not in Whitney’s original design. Nor was it incorporated into the cauldron. It is keen observations like these that turn original designs into favorites in the museum’s collection. In seeking out and interpreting otherwise hidden stories behind such artifacts, we learn about the evolution of an artist’s design and discover sometimes simple, always fascinating new slices of history that would otherwise remain unknown.