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World University Games officials rave about Adirondacks as potential host

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID — Visiting officials from the World University Games on Wednesday lauded the Adirondacks’ potential to host its event and also noted that Lake Placid is the only host city they are currently considering for the 2023 games.

Milan Augustin, director of the International University Sport Federation’s Winter Universiade, spoke glowingly at a reception at Heaven Hill Farm of what he’s seen on a multi-day tour of Lake Placid and the surrounding area. Augustin, a former Slovak biathlete, is here with Winter Universiade Sport Coordinator Paola Matringe of Switzerland and Executive Assistant Jiho Kim of South Korea.

They arrived here on Monday evening and through Friday will tour sporting facilities, lodging establishments and other elements required to host the games.

Augustin emphasized that Lake Placid and its surrounding area is different from previous host cities and candidates due to its proven history of putting on major international sporting events in a prideful small town with numerous pre-existing facilities.

“How is it possible to do it in a small city like here?” Augustin said. “Because you are a great family. You are really compact. And these games are a compact games, the most compact I’ve seen maybe in the history. And this is something that you have to benefit from, because, Paola mentioned as well, this is a small village and the people will — you will be basically in the kitchen of the athlete’s village. The people who will lead them and show them will be mothers and fathers of these people here.

International University Sport Federation Winter Universiade Director Milan Augustin (center), Sport Coordinator Paola Matringe (right), and Executive Assistant Jiho Kim pose for a picture at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid Wednesday evening. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

“This is our future,” Augustin added. “And with support of all of you, and especially with (state) government, we can refurbish all of the facilities or to build something which you are still missing because there is a lot to do. But you are very enthusiastic, with full energy — like sportsmen have to be. And I am sure with FISU together with you and the international and national sports federations we can deliver these games, the best ever in FISU history. Thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart.”

Augustin said he and his contingent have been impressed with everything they’ve seen in Lake Placid and Wilmington thus far. He highlighted how the contingent is impressed with the amount of people the Lake Placid games could accommodate thanks to the area’s hotel and vacation rental business.

Augustin also indicated that though FISU officials currently see Lake Placid as an ideal host, facility improvements before the games would need to be supported by state government and state agencies and authorities.

“To understand that all the facilities almost need to be refurbished in order to host this high international event over here,” Augustin said. “And this could be a really great start to the future where we can allocate many international events over here. International sports federations would be, I’m sure, very impressed after the Universiade to see what (Lake Placid) did.

“There is plenty of work to do, of course,” he added, “but already know we would like to use the existing facilities.”

Augustin and Matringe also brought up how they are excited about the possibility of Lake Placid’s downtown serving as a pseudo-sports village rather than constructing a new athlete village. Augustin said he envisions a downtown Lake Placid-centric event as having a kinder and warmer feel than past World University Games.

“Sometimes in big cities, the Universiade is hidden,” Augustin said. “It’s very small inside of that size to be popularized and recognized to all. There must be big marketing and promotion done in order to attract all the people.

“Here, with a small community” he continued, “you can really spread out the message very fast and lift together with the sports people and officials to give them the best.”

State Olympic Regional Development Authority Executive Vice President Jeffery Byrne said the FISU visit was organized two weeks ago. State Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna emphasized that the driving impetus to bring the games here is to improve Lake Placid’s facilities to a world-class level and to make the facilities more seasonally versatile and economically sustainable.

“We think the games you represent is really important to make that happen,” McKenna said to Augustin.

McKenna added that FISU plans to send its site committee to the region again this winter to conduct an official visit. He also elaborated that some other details to sort out would be where a Lake Placid games would host an international broadcast center, perhaps at a renovated Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid. He also said the Lake Placid/Adirondack Global Sport Committee is in talks with USA Luge to conceive an event idea as luge is not a FISU sport.

McKenna has said formal bid submissions for a 2023 World University Games and a 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games would have to be completed by Dec. 31. The 2023 FISU games’ location will be decided a few months later.

A Lake Placid contingent previously visited with FISU senior officials at FISU headquarters in March. A Lake Placid games has the full support of the U.S. International University Sports Federation, as members of the Lake Placid/Adirondack Global Sport Committee and FISU officials also met at the federation’s annual board meeting in Indianapolis at the end of April.

The World University Games and Special Olympics are two of three world sporting events the committee hopes to bring to the area in a five-year span between 2019 to 2023. The 2019 International Childrens Games is also in the committee’s sights as the village of Lake Placid has already submitted a formal letter of intent to bid for the 2019 games.

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