Lake Placid’s FISU games come to a close after 12 days
LAKE PLACID — The glow of the electronic flame inside the FISU cauldron in Brewster Park dimmed at 8:51 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22 as 12 days of sports competitions — fueled by more than five years of planning and nearly $550 million in state-funded upgrades to local winter sports venues — came to a close.
The Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games went out with a celebration on Sunday night. After state, local and FISU officials gave remarks of thanks to state elected officials, organizers, volunteers and locals during the closing ceremony at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, touting Lake Placid as a “friendly” and “hospitable” host for this January’s winter games, Ashley Walden, the executive director of Lake Placid 2023 — the local organizing committee for the games — relinquished the FISU flag to acting FISU president Leonz Eder. It’s time for a new host — Torino, Italy — to begin its preparations for the next FISU games in 2025.
“There can be no doubt: Lake Placid is the place of legends for winter sports. We are reminded of this, just walking into this building and seeing the reminders of the ‘Miracle on Ice.’ We knew this was and is a very special place. And we had the privilege to be part of it,” Eder said. “Here, in winter, Lake Placid has brought unprecedented warmth to our Games. In a complicated world, full of conflict, this wonderful community has offered us an open heart. Let us not underestimate how lucky we are to have been able to enjoy these 11 days of joyous and peaceful celebration in sport.”
James McKenna, chairman to the Adirondack Sports Council, the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games Organizing Committee, added, “New York state has shown to the world that international sporting events have the power to unite peoples and nations. Records were broken and friendships were made as the entire world watched. To all residents and businesses of Lake Placid and New York’s North Country for showing the world what wonderful hosts we are. It is impossible to relate all the comments and stories about the friendliness of our local communities and their willingness to help that have been shared.”
As part of the closing ceremony, Eder transferred the FISU Flag to Stefano Lo Russo, the mayor for Torino, Italy, the host of the 2025 FISU Winter World University Games, and Lorenzo Lentini, Italian University Sport Center delegate.
Italian band Pinguini Tattici Nucleari played rock songs and Indigenous tribes from the North Country sang songs of gratitude and safety. Then, hundreds of FISU athletes, delegates, volunteers and locals gathered in Mid’s Park on Lake Placid’s Main Street to dance along to a DJ set by Mix Master Mike — of the Beastie Boys — and watch fire dancers and a drone-powered fireworks show above Mirror Lake.
U.S. athletes earned a total of 17 medals in the 2023 games — ranking fifth in medals earned by country, with Japan ranking the highest at 48 medals. The FISU event brought 1,443 athletes (ages 17-25) from 45 countries (plus Hong Kong, China) and more than 540 universities to compete in 85 medal events in 12 winter sports: Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle and freeski, ice hockey, Nordic combined, short-track speedskating, ski jumping, snowboarding and speedskating. The games were held at venues in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Wilmington, North Creek, Canton and Potsdam.
As of Sunday, around 58,000 tickets for FISU events were sold — about 9,000 tickets short of organizers’ 67,000 goal — according to Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez.
“The 11-day competition brought hundreds of athletes and thousands of spectators to New York state shining a global spotlight on everything the north country has to offer,” Rodriguez said. “Our newly renovated world-class Olympic complexes provided athletes with exceptional state-of-the-art facilities to compete while visitors from all over the world were introduced to an iconic tourist destination.
“New York state is proud to have hosted the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid and the surrounding areas because no one does winter better than New York state.”
The games began on Jan. 11 with several hockey games, one day before the opening ceremony.
“The future is bright”
It’s been a long road to the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games since the village of Lake Placid, the only bidder for the 2023 games, was announced as this year’s FISU host city back in March 2018. Upgrades to the Olympic Center, the Saranac Lake Civic Center, Mount Van Hoevenberg, Whiteface Mountain and North Creek winter sports venues, along with improvements to Lake Placid’s Main Street, were only part of the journey.
Darcy Norfolk, who wrote the bid dossier for the 2023 games in 2017, said the years leading up to the 2018 bid were filled with conversations about the need to upgrade the state Olympic Regional Development Authority’s winter sports venues, which were falling out of venue standards for high-level competitions like world cups. Bidding for a multi-sport competition like the FISU games was one way to secure the upgrades in a fast-paced time frame, she said.
“(These games) were a way to kind of drive that investment,” Norfolk said.
As the current director of communications for ORDA, Norfolk has watched many components of her 200-page dossier for the 12-day competition come to life. Most noteworthy for her was the regional approach she outlined for the event, with events proposed as being held in Canton, Potsdam and North Creek as well as in Lake Placid.
“And that’s exactly what we did,” she said.
Norfolk has heard from people in St. Lawrence County — including her own family — who said they were happy to be included in the games, with the Potsdam Public Museum asking for 2023 games memorabilia to add to a new exhibit.
Now, with the local venue upgrades, Norfolk said the region is more poised to host high-level winter sports competitions at any given time.
“We’re seeing kind of a repositioning of ourselves in the market, essentially, as being in demand,” she said.
Lake Placid is slated to host the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in February — with over 5,000 tickets already sold for each day of the two-day competition, according to Norfolk — as well as the International Biathlon Union Cup and the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. Norfolk expects the latter will bring around 68,000 people to the area. The Empire State Winter Games is returning to the region next week, from Feb. 2 to 5.
“The future is bright,” she said.