Press-Republican

November 19, 2010

Empire State Games back on

Olympic Village coalition rallies to save Winter Games for 2011

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

LAKE PLACID — Game on.

Those words are heard more than once a day here, but Thursday morning the shout went out across the state.

Lake Placid, its winter sports community and a coalition of village and town officials are going to host the Empire State Games, as planned.

The announcement Thursday morning comes fewer than two days after the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation closed the annual winter athletic challenge due to state budget constraints.

'WE HAVE THE SPIRIT'

"Lake Placid is going to do it," North Elba Town Supervisor Roby Politi said Thursday. "Our feeling is if the state can't do it, we can. We know how to do this; we have the community spirit and the volunteers. It's part of our tradition to do this kind of stuff. We put the events on anyway."

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall agreed.

"I think it's fair to say that the mayor and supervisor spent some time yesterday digesting the functions of Empire State Games. Quite frankly, as to the organization and the management of the games, we have the capability to do it.

"There are lots of questions I know about what they will appear like, what changes might be made, things the state might have included in the games that might be different this year, but there are a number of people involved as far as each of the different disciplines are concerned, and many of them have stepped up.

"We thought the big news, especially for the youth of the state, is that we will keep the games going.

The mayor paused, then chuckled.

"We're excited about the prospect of doing what we do best every day."

SET FOR FEBRUARY

Empire State Games will be held as scheduled on Feb. 25 to 28, 2011, to include competition in alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ski jumping, ice skating and other winter sports.

SPONSORS NEEDED

Turning the threat of loss into a win involves taking shots at opportunity.

"There was no question in anyone's mind Thursday that it's game on here," Politi said. "We're just going to continue to have Empire State Games. We're looking for corporate sponsors interested in helping the kids of New York state out.

"They've trained for this, and the kids love coming to this community. They arrive with great pride — to use the Olympic facilities and stand on the same podium where so many winning athletes have stood.

"It's part of education, it's part of growing up, and it would be a shame to lose it, so we won't. The response has been wonderful already."

HISTORY

At the table with Politi and Randall Wednesday night when the decision was made were Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Ted Blazer and Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism President Jim McKenna, working in conjunction with Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston.

McKenna said their focus is not driven by fear of losing tourism dollars.

"This is not just economically important, it's part of what we've been doing here for 100 years," he said of Lake Placid, a community that staged Winter Games in 1932 despite the Great Depression.

"When you get our organizations together at one table and we all reach the same decision, it's good.

"Empire State Games have proven to be a stepping-stone for a lot of youth entering the Olympic Games. Nearly 100 young athletes have gone on to compete in the Olympics afterward, and we're going to continue giving them that opportunity."

At ORDA, sporting events are second nature.

"Our facilities and venue management were already prepared to host these events," Blazer added in an announcement after the press conference.

"The venues are set, our staff is ready, and we will pull off an exceptional Empire State Winter Games 2011."

ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin said they will work in partnership with the village, towns and everyone else "to ensure this is a community-wide event and look to the people who helped put this together for the last 30 years.

"Now we'll work on logistics, the sponsorship and everything that comes before the event is staged."

KUDOS FROM LEGISLATORS

Sen. Betty Little was encouraged by Lake Placid's fortitude.

"My office is willing to meet and assist any way possible," she said in a statement after Thursday's announcement.

"I'm very glad that the community stepped forward to promote yet another great event in the Adirondacks."

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said carrying on a tradition of Empire State Games is great news.

"Partnerships like this are necessary to keep great programs such as this in place."

E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at: kdedam@pressrepublican.com