Press-Republican

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February 7, 2013

The more the merrier for Winter Games

LAKE PLACID — The roster of athletes arriving for the Empire State Winter Games has topped 1,100.

The Olympic venues are ready for today’s opening. And competitors are ready to see the torch lit.

Athletes — including some skaters yet to turn 10 and snowshoers older than 60 — will compete in some 20 events, including ice skating, alpine skiing, biathlon, hockey and skier/snowboarder cross.

Four adaptive events were added to the Winter Games roster this year, snowboard cross and biathlon among them, and more than 40 adaptive athletes are signed in to compete.

BIGGEST IN DECADES

Organizers said this year’s event rivals the biggest held in 33 years.

Ted Blazer, president and CEO of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, spent time earlier this week checking venues.

“Things are looking really good,” he said. “We’re right in event mode.”

Two World Cup competitions have already been held in Lake Placid, and last weekend’s synchronized skating brought more than 2,000 athletes to the village.

But the Empire State Games are fast becoming a part of storied local winter sports history.

This marks the third year that six communities here have organized and cooperatively run the competition.

When the state opted out of hosting the Winter Games, local sports and tourism leaders stepped in.

‘OLYMPIC FEEL’

In 33 years, more than 200 Winter Games athletes have gone on to Olympic and international-level competition, said Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“They use this event to experience a multi-event Olympic feel.”

It is, he added, often the highlight of their winter sports activity.

Incoming teams from all corners of New York deliver a unique kind of athletic energy and excitement to Lake Placid, Wilmington, Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake and the towns they visit along the way, McKenna said.

From the delighted screaming in the stands to the inspired awe of competing on Olympic courses, this particular event is about the excitement it generates.

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