LAKE PLACID - Local officials say Lake Placid's presence at the Vancouver Winter Olympics helped maintain its position in the world sports community and could lead to the village hosting more international events.
Several local officials, including village Mayor Craig Randall, state Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Ted Blazer and Jim McKenna, president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, each spent more than a week in Vancouver, attending events and receptions, signing "friendship protocols" with other Olympic cities and networking with officials from national and international sports organizations.
"We had a significant presence," McKenna said. "We let the people involved in the Olympic movement know that Lake Placid is still a player."
Jim McKenna, left, president and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer and Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall pose for a picture Feb. 20 at the Whistler Sliding Centre during the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Local officials say the Lake Placid Friendship Center in Whistler played a key role in their success. Underwritten by the Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Commission's $5 million state funding, the friendship center gave athletes, dignitaries, visitors, representatives of different sports organizations and the media a place to gather during the 17 days of the winter games. Vice President Joe Biden was among the many visitors to the friendship center.
"Parents, friends and athletes were able to come in, and we were able to interface with different federations from both a national and international level," Blazer said. "People saw Lake Placid was there supporting the Olympic movement and that we're continuing to be a force. I thought it was well done."
Jeff Potter, ORDA's director of corporate development, helped plan and staff the friendship center, which was located in a coffee shop and cafe at the base of the gondola in Whistler village.
"From a visibility standpoint, we were in a great location," Potter said. "We got a lot of media attention. We also stood out because we were one of the only Olympic host cities to actually have a presence in Whistler. All in all, it was very successful."
Potter said Lake Placid pins and promotional materials were handed out at the center, which also hosted two receptions for international sports federations, athletes and their families. A large banner was put up in the center to celebrate local Olympians, and more were printed and hung when Lake Placid's Andrew Weibrecht won a bronze medal in alpine skiing and Vermontville's Bill Demong captured gold in nordic combined.
"It was a place to showcase to the international sports world our legacy of hosting two Winter Olympic Games, to show we support our local athletes, and to indicate to the international federations that we're ready, willing and able to do more World Cup and World Championship events, and any other major events that might come down the pike," he said.
Randall said Lake Placid's presence at the games led to the village receiving plenty of media attention.
"It was nonstop - not only here in our local media, but out there from the media at the games," he said. "Lake Placid was on people's minds everywhere I went."
"Lake Placid was mentioned on TV every 15 minutes," said Sergei Lussi, head of the Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Commission, who spent five days in Vancouver. "We had more of a presence at Vancouver than any other Olympic community."
Away from the friendship center, local officials attended several other meetings and functions while they were in Vancouver. McKenna and Randall met with the mayor of Lausanne, Switzerland and discussed the World Union of Olympic Cities, a meeting of former Olympic host cities that both men attended last fall. Randall and McKenna also took part in a United Nations-hosted panel discussion on sustainable tourism and sports development.
Local officials were also invited to a reception with members of the International Olympic Committee. Lussi said he talked with IOC President Jacques Rogge about the Youth Olympic Games but didn't make an overt push for Lake Placid to host the Winter Youth Games in 2016.
"I didn't want to push it, but I think we have a good chance of getting the Youth Olympics if the U.S. Olympic Committee will go along with it," Lussi said.
Lussi said he spoke with Scott Blackmun, the new CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and invited him to visit Lake Placid.
When they weren't busy with receptions and meetings, the local officials in Vancouver said they were watching local Olympic athletes compete at the games.
"Our athletes carried tremendous dignity while they were there," Blazer said. "They were fabulous representatives of the area, and I'm just so proud of them."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.