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GUEST COMMENTARY: Action needed to save Olympic venues

February 19, 2015
By ROBY POLITI , Lake Placid News

We're at the crossroads. Lake Placid's success didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen by accident. It happened because of enthusiastic and determined people with good ideas who took a chance and dared to be different. It happened because at every crossroads in our history, we came together as a community and faced our challenges head-on, cultivating our own niche and forging a vibrant economy.

But we also know that the competition for events and business continues to mount. We must remain committed to lofty ideals, continued self-improvement and the quality of presentation.

The key to our success is not entirely about developing new ideas or finding new directions; it also requires the maintenance and overhaul of what we have in place. Many of our Olympic venues are aging and in need of a financial boost. The old-guard influence is quickly disappearing; today there are only four living members of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee. In his post-1968 Olympic Bid Report, Norman Hess said, "Lake Placid's winter sports facilities have been allowed to run down rather than improved or expanded. This is not the fault of any one body or group of people, it is the fault of the community for failing to insist upon something better. This trend must be reversed!!"

Article Photos

Roby Politi
(File photo — Andy Flynn)

Unfortunately, we are facing the same uncertainty today.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority has played an essential role in sustaining Lake Placid's prominence in sports, but community activism and involvement in the course of Lake Placid's fate remain essential ingredients to the overall success and purpose of our mission. The future of Lake Placid's place in sports history cannot be left solely to the judgment and sentiments of state leadership. It is imperative that we have our own citizens and business interests step forward. It is far too easy to allow other authoritative bodies to map the course of our future, but we must never allow it to happen. It remains an ultimate priority that this community and region always have a hand in the navigation of its own growth and adjudication.

I do want to congratulate and acknowledge ORDA Chairman Pat Barrett for his support and endorsement of the ORDA Community Development Panel, and I remain hopeful that we can now work as a team and find the necessary funding to upgrade our deteriorating venues. I am also hopeful that the U.S. Olympic Committee will continue to recognize Lake Placid's contributions to winter sports in this country and will endure to secure another major world-level event for our region in the near future.

I have every confidence that we can meet these challenges, that we can further strengthen our collaborations and that we can advance Lake Placid's potential beyond its celebrated distinctions of the past. But we must do it as an organized and powerful voice.

The time is at hand! The Utah Sports Commission has invested millions of dollars in elite training and recreation programs. The Salt Lake games provided an $85 million endowment fund for their Olympic venues. Utah is now the home of three national governing sports bodies (ski and snowboarding, speedskating and handball). We may soon be left behind, and we cannot allow our Olympic legacy to lose its significance.

New York state has a vested financial interest in the global sports market as well as enhancing winter tourism. A regional Olympic Winter Games encompassing either a statewide or Canadian alliance makes good economic sense. It's time to take another chance.

It's been 35 years since the '80 games! We all have a stake in the outcome. This is a call to action for Essex County and local governments, ORDA and the people of Lake Placid. We must garner the support of Gov. Cuomo and our state and federal representatives to recognize the necessity to improve and refurbish the condition of our Olympic venues. The future of this region, its jobs, its businesses, its soul and spirit are now facing a lofty challenge.

Once again, we're at the crossroads!



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