Ticket sales at 19% of goal for winter sports event opening Thursday
By James M. Odato
Despite weather closer to the kind found in mud season, ice and snow needed to host the World University Games in the Adirondacks will cover the tracks to be used by the 1,500 athletes skiing, skating, and sliding in competition this month, organizers stressed Friday.
Six days before the opening of the international event centered around the state’s Lake Placid and North Creek Olympic facilities, and after a series of days above freezing, planners said the sports facilities will be ready to go, even if a modest crowd arrives to watch.
“We’re in good shape,” said Darcy Norfolk, the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s communications director said.
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ORDA has triggered some of the tools and devices that came with $500 million in state investments in the sporting complexes at Gore Mountain in North Creek, Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington and Mount Van Hoevenberg plus the Olympic speed skating oval and hockey rinks in Lake Placid. Refrigeration and high speed, energy efficient snowmaking units have been in use for weeks, Norfolk said. All the competition fields are and will be covered but recreation trails planned to be available during the games are unusable because of melt, she said.
“What we’re seeing is bigger swings in temperatures and systems get engrained where warmer weather will stay longer,” said Scott McKim, science manager at the Whiteface Mountain field station of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. Temperatures have been above seasonal norms for this time of year since just after Christmas, he said. “The remarkable thing about this warmup is how warm it is up high.”
“Everybody wants snow,” Norfolk said.
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The sports event, which kicks off with an opening ceremony Thursday expected to include Gov. Kathy Hochul, is attracting athletes from 46 countries and 540 universities who will compete for 86 medals in 12 winter sports.
Jon Lundin, head of communications for Lake Placid 2023, organizers of the games, said unlike the past two Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, in 1932 and 1980, there is no need to import or worry about snow. The ORDA crews will be able to maintain the surfaces needed for all events, although the competitions may have plenty of open audience spots.
He said 13,000 tickets have been sold, well short of the 67,000 goal, and marketing efforts, particularly on social media, are targeting venues and sports. The biggest demand has been for the gold medal men’s hockey game on the last day of the games, Jan. 22, and for the closing ceremony that will immediately follow. A full World University Games schedule and ticket information can be found here.
Winter sports games may be a bigger draw outside the United States, Lundin said. North American viewing habits have shifted to television or computer devices. “The other thing is COVID (19),” he said. “It’s safer to watch an event on TV.” He said the organizers encourage visitors to wear masks at indoor events.
These games have been billed as a catalyst for the North Country to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds to upgrade former Olympic sites and put the High Peaks on the international winter sports calendar for generations, while closing some of the major gaps in available living and public transit systems within a 14-county area.
This 31st World University Winter Games arrives after Lake Placid organizers won hosting rights after years of planning by local officials, including visits to World Games events. A contract among the organizing committee, the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, the United States International University Sports Federation, the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and the Village of Lake Placid was signed on Aug. 28, 2018.
The university games were last held in Lake Placid in 1972 and have been conducted outside the United States since then.
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Contractually, the hosts must assure medical services are available and Adirondack Health’s plan to close the Lake Placid emergency hospital department has not yet been approved by the state so it will be in operation, Norfolk said. The state Department of Health said it is has not “accepted and finalized” the hospital corporation’s closure application.
Lundin said the organizers have been working closely with the medical teams at each ORDA venue, and are bringing in physicians, nurses, athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists for all the venues and large villages.
The organizing committee has medical insurance in place for all participants to meet Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire requirements and legislation was secured specifically for the games allowing that international team doctors and physiotherapists can take care of their respective teams during the events.
Lundin added that state, county and local health, law enforcement and emergency services representatives and regional EMS agencies have planned for the medical and emergency care of guests.
COVID vaccinations were required for volunteers, staff and delegation members. A supply of masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and tests to prevent the spread of disease have been planned, and the 911 telephone system is the go-to emergency communication service.