By Patrick Burke at Steigenberger Wiltcher’s in Brussels
Organisers of the Lake Placid 2023 International University Sports Federation (FISU) Winter World University Games have insisted here that “preparations are coming along very smoothly” for the multi-sport event, which is now fewer than two months away.
Speaking to insidethegames at the FISU Executive Committee meeting in Belgium’s capital Brussels, where the Organising Committee delivered a report, Lake Placid 2023 executive director Ashley Walden said that the final steps of preparation are underway.
“From the Organising Committee’s side, I think all of the preparations are coming along very smoothly,” Walden said.
“A number of the major projects that are well underway are nearing completion, so it’s right now just the final touches to make sure that everything is a smooth experience for all of the participants from the moment they arrive until they depart, so we are very, very confident with all the New York state and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has done on the venues that it will be top-notch competition, with state-of-the-art facilities that they will certainly want to come back to for years to come.
“The entire village of Lake Placid has undergone a facelift, so I think it is very exciting times for the entire community and everybody is very anxious to welcome the world on January 12.”
Walden emphasised the importance of the FISU World Conference under the theme “Save Winter”, which set to be held alongside the Games from January 13 to 15, as an event that “captures our sustainability initiatives”, and believes there is plenty to look forward to.
“We anticipate there may be some things that pop up,” Walden recognised.
“If weather doesn’t play our way, I think the venues are very prepped to deal with that.
“We’ve been trying to identify any risks that might be out there and make sure that we have solutions for them ahead of time.
“We’ve built a large team in a short amount of time to make sure that all the work is done ahead of everybody’s arrival, and we’re just really excited to have the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the Save Winter Conference and how all of the individual pieces are coming together.
“Just excited to have the world return to Lake Placid.
“It’s the next chapter in Lake Placid’s legacy.”
Walden also expressed confidence in the Organising Committee’s work to ensure that all participants can obtain visas to travel to the US for the event.
“We’re very comfortable with where we are right now,” she said.
“Certainly it’s been a challenge and we’ve had to manoeuvre and be creative to find ways, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to get all of the delegations in for full participation.”
The chairman of New York’s ORDA Joe Martens praised the state for providing $400 million (£339 million/€386 million) in investment towards helping to prepare facilities in Lake Placid for the FISU Games.
“We felt like we were ready a year ago with the exception of the Olympic Center, which is where all our ice is,” Martens told insidethegames.
“The arena for hockey, the outdoor speed skating rink, those improvements are now complete and it is looking beautiful.
“We are ready to go, and we have hosted just last year 14 major events, several of them we considered to be trial runs for the World University Games.
“Even though we had some wrinkles with the weather along the way, we were still prepared because we have so much great new snowmaking in the mountains.
“We have refrigeration facilities on the ice, so we think the ice is better now and we’re going to be as prepared as we can possibly be, so we feel like we’re in really good shape.”
Martens argued that preparations for Lake Placid 2023 had been a “great example of teamwork”, and commended the work of the Organising Committee.
James McKenna, the chair of the Adirondack Sports Council, claimed that the FISU Games provided an opportunity to build on Lake Placid’s staging of the Winter Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980.
“What the World University Games has allowed us to do is to take the same venues that were used for the 1932 Olympics, upgraded for 1980, and now they’ve been modernised to a level where some of the IFs [International Federations] that have been there have said they are the best in the world right now,” he told insidethegames.
“The World University Games has certainly catalysed that to happen, it wouldn’t have happened without the Games coming, and it’s not like building something in a new winter sports area.
“We know that this will be ongoing and the legacy of the Games will allow Lake Placid, we feel for the next 40 to 50 years, to have some premium winter sports venues – constant World Cups, constant World Championships, and also we’re developing the component for training and we hope as times goes on to be more of an international training site for some of the IFs.”
McKenna also said that organisers had benefited from around $300 million (£254 million/€289 million) in private investment, which has been used on initiatives such as upgrading hospitality facilities.
Lake Placid 2023 is due to be held from January 12 to 22.
It is set to mark the first edition of the Winter World University Games since Krasnoyarsk 2019, after the cancellation of Lucerne 2021 at short notice due to COVID-19 restrictions.