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Lake Placid officials say they’re ready for the start of the World University Games

Lake Placid World University Games plaque
Pat Bradley
Lake Placid World University Games plaque at Mt Van Hoevenberg venue

After five years of preparation, the World University Games are set to begin next week in Lake Placid.

In 2018 Lake Placid was chosen by the Switzerland-based International University Sports Federation to host the 2023 World University Games. The games are the largest winter collegiate competition in the world with about 2,500 student-athletes between 17 and 25 competing in sports like skiing, speedskating, figure skating and hockey during the 11-day event.

Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin says the village and region will be ready.

“The sports venues are ready. They’re state of the art, probably amongst the best in the world right now. The harder part is all the details that have to go into holding a world class event. Everything is falling together but it’s just nerve wracking. A lot of people putting in a lot of hard hours to make sure we comply with the standards and the protocols and all the things we didn’t think of. So that’s going to happen right up until the start of the games and probably right through the games.”

The Adirondack Sports Council is coordinating local World University Games efforts. Chair Jim McKenna says they are ready and waiting for seasonal winter weather.

“The only thing that we haven’t been able to wrap our hands around at this point is good fresh snow. But overall the organization aspect of the games are in good shape at this point. Clearly the sports venues are up and running. Even with the weather we’ve had they have the capacity now to make snow, which they’ve done plenty in advance. International delegations have been starting to arrive. So we’re starting to see that international flavor on the main street here in Lake Placid.”

McKenna says the World University Games include a three-day educational forum beginning on January 13th featuring speakers like New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, Author Bill McKibben and Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers exploring the impact of climate change on winter sports.

“It’s about ‘save winter’ and we have some national leaders and some international speakers addressing that issue because we want to use this as a launch pad to really focus in on how important winter is for destinations not only like the Adirondacks but many destinations around the world and how we all have to work together to solve that problem in order to save winter. There’s a lot of great speakers throughout our three-day conference. I mean that’s what makes this event a little different than strictly sports events. There’s a little mixture of education in with it as well.”   

New York State invested millions of dollars to upgrade the Olympic sporting venues in Lake Placid. Mayor Devlin says it brings the region back up to state-of-the-art facilities able to host large winter sporting competitions.

“Three-four years ago we were starting to lose people training here and using our facilities because they no longer met the FIS standards and the international standard and now everything we have complies. We are starting to attract people back. We hope to attract even more. I see Lake Placid as going nowhere but up. The FISU games is big. It is big recognition. It’s a real feather in our cap as my father would say for Lake Placid to be able to host such an event. This is big.”

This is the third time the World University Games have been held in the U.S. In 1972 Lake Placid hosted the winter games and Buffalo hosted the 1993 summer games. Lake Placid is also the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

The World University Games run January 12th to the 22nd.