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Don’t give up on Olympic-sized dream

February 11, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

When motivational speaker Willie Jolley says "A setback is a setup for a comeback," he could be talking to Lake Placid. In fact, he could be reminding the Olympic Village of its past in order to help guide the community to its future.

That's why history is so important. We can learn from past successes and failures, and Lake Placid has a history of both. Yet the true nature of a champion, as we see in the actions of our local and visiting athletes every day, is the never-ending drive to achieve one's goals. We get back up when we're knocked down and keep going.

In December, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration failed to give Lake Placid $4.5 million for its Olympic bid/Olympic venues/Global Center of Sports Excellence proposals, it felt like someone was rubbing salt in an open wound, and the news left the proposal's backers in shock. They were ready to run with the ball, but they soon found that somebody had stolen their ball and they didn't know where to turn.

Article Photos

Opening ceremonies of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid
(Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

The Cuomo government decided to give millions of dollars in Upstate Revitalization Initiative money to other parts of the state, not the North Country, on Dec. 10, 2015. Several local officials were in Albany for the announcement. They were hoping the North Country Regional Economic Development Council would get $500 million for projects to boost the local economy, and one of those projects - a funding ask of $4.5 million - would have created a road map to rebuild the region's tourism infrastructure, specifically in Lake Placid.

The three-pronged proposal doesn't have a catchy name. It's a multi-faceted and far-reaching set of ideas, so just calling it the Olympic Future Proposal isn't as accurate as it could be. Yet, for the sake of brevity, that's what we'll call it since it's about Lake Placid's role in the future of the Olympic Movement.

The Olympic Future Proposal is a $6 million plan to create the Adirondack/Thousand Islands Sports and Events Commission to use an Olympic Winter bid for the 2026 or 2030 Games in order to build sustainable Olympic venues and establish a Global Center of Sports Excellence. The cost would be split: $4.5 million in public funds and $1.5 million in private investment.

While the North Country did not get the URI money, we are thrilled to see that the two NCREDC members who spearheaded the Olympic proposal have not given up. Now that the shock has subsided, it's time to get back to work. On Friday, Feb. 5, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna and Adirondack Foundation Executive Director Cali Brooks held a follow-up meeting to regroup and move forward.

The meeting included key players from the community, including Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall, North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi, state Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Ted Blazer, ORDA Board member Bill Beaney, USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy, and Jack Favro of the U.S. Olympic Training Center. This is the core group that will begin guiding Lake Placid into the future of the Olympic Movement.

To the rest of the community, we say don't give up on the Olympic-sized proposal pitched to the governor. Eventually it will lead to the revitalization of the Olympic Village and the surrounding region. We've only had one setback so far, which is nothing in comparison to Lake Placid's Olympic bidding history.

Remember the 1980 Olympic Winter Games? After 28 years of hard work, dedication and perseverance - and four bids - Lake Placid was ready to bid for the 1980 Games in 1974.

1948 Games: In September 1946, the IOC decided to give St. Moritz, Switzerland, its second Winter Olympics in 1948. Only one other city was in contention: Lake Placid.

1952 Games: In 1947, the bidding began in earnest for the 1952 Games, which Lake Placid lost to Oslo, Norway. Lake Placid received only one vote.

1956 Games: Lake Placid lost another bid for the 1956 Winter Olympics, which were given to Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy.

1960 Games: For the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to back Squaw Valley, California, for the bid instead of Lake Placid. Squaw Valley was chosen over four other cities.

1968 Games: A large bidding delegation from Lake Placid traveled to Innsbruck, Austria, in 1964 to bid for the 1968 Games against five other cities, including Grenoble, France, which won the vote.

1972 Games: In June 1965, the North Elba Town Board voted against bidding to the USOC for the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, which were eventually awarded to Sapporo, Japan. Town leaders at the time said the village wasn't ready to host another Olympics.

1976 Games: In May 1970, Denver was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics, yet on Nov. 7, 1972, Colorado voters rejected a referendum allocating $5 million for the Games. Various cities lined up to take Denver's place, including Lake Placid, Salt Lake City, Squaw Valley, Vancouver, St. Moritz, Grenoble, Oslo and Innsbruck. On Feb. 4, 1973, the IOC met and decided on Innsbruck, the host of the 1964 Winter Olympics.

1980 Games: In October 1974, 72 delegates from Lake Placid traveled to Vienna, Austria, for the IOC session to make their pitch for the 1980 Winter Olympics. By the time the IOC made its decision, Lake Placid was the only formal bidder after Chamonix, France, and Vancouver, Canada, dropped out of contention, and the Winter Olympics finally returned to New York state after a 48-year absence.

Lake Placid's bidding history teaches us that it takes decades to bring the Olympics to any city. And even if the Olympics don't return to New York, the process of preparing for a bid will undoubtedly lead us to solve other problems, such as transportation, and improve the region's tourism infrastructure.

The goals of launching the Adirondack/Thousand Islands Sports and Events Commission, creating sustainable Olympic venues and establishing a Global Center of Sports Excellence are the key to setting Lake Placid up for the biggest comeback in its history, as a worldwide leader in the Olympic Movement for generations.

That's why we fully support these proposals from the NCREDC and urge Gov. Cuomo to make the needed investment in New York state's Olympic future, right here in the Olympic Village of Lake Placid.



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