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Time for NY to invest in future of the Olympic Movement

May 5, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

It's fingernail biting time in the Olympic Region. With only one week left until USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy gives a presentation to his board of directors with a recommendation whether to move the organization's headquarters from Lake Placid to Park City, Utah, we're concerned about the silence from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

We've reported on USA Luge's possible move since last May, and we printed editorials saying New York must invest more in Lake Placid's Olympic venues, or at least make a good-faith effort to fund a study on how to best update the venues. Otherwise, the state risks losing its status in the Olympic Movement, including the loss of USA Luge.

"I think there has to be some kind of commitment that the infrastructure we have here is going to be vastly improved," Leahy said Feb. 28 when asked whether USA Luge will move its headquarters to Utah.

Article Photos

USA Luge athlete and Olympian Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, waves to the crowd during the FIL Luge World Cup in December 2015 at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding track in Lake Placid.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

The next day, thanks to former town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, who now works for the state of New York, a local coalition met with the governor's advisors at the state Capitol to discuss Olympic venue improvements.

Douglas joined Lake Placid boosters such as Leahy, state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall, North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman and town of Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee, ORDA CEO Ted Blazer, ORDA board member Bill Beaney, Adirondack Health CEO Chandler Ralph, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna, Adirondack Foundation Executive Director Cali Brooks, U.S. Olympic Training Center Director Jack Favro, and North Country Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairman Garry Douglas. The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by USA Luge Board of Directors President Dwight Bell about the needs of his organization and how the improvement of Olympic venues helps a city's chances toward a potential Olympic bid.

It was a room full of movers and shakers, and the group walked away from the meeting confident that Lake Placid would eventually get some money - possibly between $2 and $3 million - to draft an Olympic venue improvement plan that would hopefully lead to the creation of a Global Center of Sports Excellence in Lake Placid, thereby solidifying its future in the Olympic Movement.

Yet the governor is the person who will most likely make the funding announcement, and he hasn't made an official trip to the Adirondacks in a while. He even skipped this year's Adirondack Winter Challenge in Lake Placid, sending Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul instead. Hochul has made a lot of trips to the Adirondack Park since she has taken office, and we love seeing her. But it's not the same as having the governor here.

Lately, Gov. Cuomo and his team have been busy traveling around the state spreading the news about a variety of projects in the voter-rich regions of New York.

For Lake Placid, the waiting continues. First we waited until New York state had an approved budget, which came on April 1. Now we are waiting for Team Cuomo to make a move toward improving all the Olympic venues, above and beyond what the state Olympic Regional Development Authority gets for upgrades in the budget.

We hope a venue investment announcement comes before USA Luge's May 14 meeting. Yet, as the days slip away with no word from the governor, we are slowly losing faith in his commitment to the future of New York's role in the Olympic Movement, which began in Lake Placid with the 1932 Winter Games.

Without an investment in the Olympic venues, New York's role in the Olympic Movement will become a footnote in the history books, as Jim Leahy said in February.

He's right, and it's a shame.

Since when has New York - the Empire State - given up on the future? Letting go of the Olympic Movement is contrary to forward-thinking projects such as the state's nanotechnology initiative.

Since when have we handed over New York's assets to other states? Letting go of the Olympic Movement would be like giving up the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants baseball teams all over again.

Since when has New York given up on the Olympic dream? The state's first Winter Olympics began during Franklin D. Roosevelt's governorship, but he probably never thought Lake Placid could host another Olympics and position itself on the international stage for so long.

You'd think this small town with big dreams - home to the Miracle on Ice hockey game in 1980 - would be something our governor would be proud to showcase in his economic development plan for New York. The Global Center of Sports Excellence would not only position the state as the leader in the Olympic Movement, it would be an international mecca for winter and summer Olympic athletes.

Let's hope the energy Gov. Cuomo puts into his vision for the rest of New York can be channeled into an Olympic vision for the Adirondack North Country region. Lake Placid may never host another Winter Olympics - wholly or partially - but this village is poised to be a major player in the Olympic Movement. Let's not let that opportunity slip away. Gov. Cuomo, please don't give up on New York's Olympic dreams.


Winter Olympic States

While the U.S. Olympic Committee has 17 Olympic Training Sites located in 15 states, there are only a handful of states that play a major role in the Olympic Movement.

-Colorado is home to the USOC, an Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, USA Hockey and U.S. Figure Skating.

-Lake Placid, New York, hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and is home to an Olympic Training Center, USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton. It also has one of two sliding tracks in the nation for luge, bobsled and skeleton and hosts World Cup races regularly for those sports and for Freestyle World Cup competitions at the ski jumps and Whiteface Mountain. The Olympic Region of New York state has sent at least one athlete to every Winter Olympics since the first one was held in 1924, when Lake Placid speedskater Charles Jewtraw became the first person to win a Winter Olympic gold medal.

-Utah hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City but does not have an Olympic Training Center. It is home to one of two sliding tracks in the nation for luge, bobsled and skeleton, plus U.S. Speedskating and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

-California, which is bidding for a Summer Olympics in 2024 in Los Angeles, is home to an Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. It hosted the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

-Wisconsin is home to USA Curling.

-Maine is home to U.S. Biathlon.



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