Are you excited about the World University Games coming to Lake Placid?
The answer is probably no — at least, not yet.
The Games, the largest sporting event in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Olympics, are set for January 2023, less than two years away. More than 1,800 athletes, ages 17-25, from 50 countries will be in the North Country for the competition in 12 winter sports.
It is a big deal.
For starters, how about 86 events over an 11-day period, primarily at venues in the Lake Placid area with some ice hockey scheduled for Potsdam and skiing at Gore in North Creek? The number of athletes involved is about twice the size of those who competed in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The sports are hockey, figure skating, Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, speedskating, short track, biathlon, curling, ski jumping and Nordic combined.
The facilities to host these games already exist. But by the time of the opening ceremonies, New York state will spend more than $200 million on new and refreshed venues in and around Lake Placid, some of which had not been updated since 1980. A lot of the work is simply infrastructure and upgrades. A spectacular exception to that is the new sports complex at Mount VanHoevenberg, where the Nordic skiing and biathlon competition will be held. Bobsled, skeleton and luge are there also, but those sports are not part of these games.
“International sports officials who have come to town recently have told us this is the best facility of its kind in the world now,” Ashley Walden said recently. A former US Olympian in luge and sports administrator in Lake Placid, she is executive director of the Adirondack Sports Council, the lead organization for the games.
Walden’s managing director of marketing, sponsorships and communications for ADKSC is Schenectady native and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons graduate Chris Carroll.
SECOND TIME FOR LAKE PLACID
The Games were awarded to Lake Placid in 2018 by the Switzerland-based World University Games organization, FISU (International University Sports Federation). The games have a long tradition. The first were held in 1948 and then on a two-year schedule ever since, mostly in Europe and Asia. This will be the 31st version. The only other time they have been held in the U.S. was in Lake Placid in 1972. Then there were 48 athletes from seven countries involved.
So far the Lake Placid games have been working mostly under the radar. But the drums will begin to beat more loudly in the coming months as the international winter sports calendar refills.
The 2021 Games, which were to be held earlier this year in Lucerne, Switzerland, have been moved back to this coming December and the 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled for Beijing, China next February. In addition, there will be test events in all the University Games sports at all the venues before the formal event gets underway.
In addition to its rich history of hosting winter sports, Lake Placid has several other advantages in ramping up for the Games. The Olympic Regional Development Authority headquartered in town was founded two years after the 1980 Olympics to manage and market facilities developed for the Games. So far, as past Winter Olympics are concerned, the ORDA-led efforts are a model of how to keep the host location relevant in the world of international sports.
Local involvement in the games is strong and the leadership is experienced
ORDA will be in charge of operations at its facilities during the games. ORDA President Mike Pratt has been involved with the organization since the 1980s. ORDA’s Director of Sport Paul Wylie won a medal in figure skating at the 1987 World University Games before his silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics.
The Adirondack Sports Council is part of the Lake Placid-based Adirondack North Country Sports Council, which has been involved in regional economic development and promotion for decades. It looks at ways to advance the region and was the core organization involved with the bid that resulted in the award of the games. The ADKSC will be responsible for the promotion of the games and the execution of the competitions. The president of the ADKSC is Jim McKenna, who has led development activity in Lake Placid since the 1980s and more recently led the effort to save the Empire State Winter Games, which had been cancelled by the state. He is also the CEO of the Regional Office Of Sustainable Tourism.
NON-SPORT COMPONENT, TOO
Like the Olympic Games, the World University Games has a non-sports component which right now comes under the headline, “Save Winter.” Alongside the competition of this size, there will be an emphasis on programs and presentation on climate awareness and environmental responsibility.
Planning an event like this at this time has brought with it some special challenges. Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, the games scheduled for this year have been postponed and much of the organizing activity that ordinarily would be done in-person has been done virtually. The games will feature some 154 hours of live television coverage, but scheduling details remain to be worked out. Volunteers will be needed, as many as 3,000. Ways to become involved will be announced next year
The event is moving forward. It will be big. Now the time has come to put the plan in play.
For regular information on the Games, the website lakeplacid2023.com will come online in April.
Ski passes for the 2021-22 season are starting to come available, and given access preferences for passholder this winter, these are expected to be popular. There are many versions of these passes from single-hill options to multiple areas like IKON and Epic. Some come with unlimited access. Some come with restrictions. If you are ready to commit in advance, you can save money but be sure to consider what you expect to do next winter and tailor your purchase accordingly.
Skiing in Vermont for people in our area has been problematic this winter due to coronavirus-related regulations in effect in the Green Mountain state. Recently it was announced that for those who have had their COVID-19 vaccination for more than two weeks, the 14-day quarantine requirement will no longer apply. The Vermont ski season generally lasts through April. For those who qualify, that could mean some good spring skiing days across the border.
GO GREEN AT MAPLE RIDGE
Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day next Wednesday with a special $17 lift ticket for those who show up wearing green. The hours will be 3-8 p.m.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].
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