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ESWG seeks broad regional identity

February 23, 2011
By NATHAN BROWN, Enterprise Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID - Organizers of this year's Empire State Winter Games have emphasized repeatedly that they want the games to have an Adirondack identity and not just be looked at as a Lake Placid event.

Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Lake Placid Convention Visitors Bureau, told the Enterprise that community acceptance, as well as whether sports organizers are happy after the games, will be looked at as barometers of the event's success.

"If we really do get some community acceptance of it ... if we can get some people in the stands, if we can get some people at the festivals - those are going to be some things we're going to be looking at," McKenna said.

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McKenna also heads LPEC Quality Destinations Inc., the group that is fiscally responsible for the games now. After the state announced in November it couldn't pay for the games, a coalition of local municipalities and organizations quickly stepped up to organize them. A number of private individuals and businesses have also contributed.

Overall, organizers sounded cheery in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. Plans for the opening ceremonies Friday evening, for the Festival of the Games on Saturday and for the torch run Thursday and Friday have been finalized. An online auction by Olympians to raise money for it is attracting bidders, and the weather looks like it's going to cooperate.

"The venues are in great shape, and the weather forecast looks to be very positive, very favorable," said Jeffery Byrne, vice president of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs the area's Olympic venues and is hosting some of the events.

Andrew Weibrecht, an alpine skier who won a bronze medal in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and is also involved in the auction, will be the keynote speaker at Friday's opening ceremony, which will be webcast.

ORDA has already asked the state if it can host the games next year, according to Byrne, and organizers are looking at possible corporate sponsorship for next year's.

"We feel there's value statewide in this program," McKenna said. "We'll try to keep the current sponsors on, but try to grow it as well."

About 800 athletes have signed up so far, and organizers expect about 200 more.

"We still expect in the next couple of days to get a little onslaught of them," McKenna said.

This is down a bit from about 1,200 competitors last year, when the state ran the games.

"We could still get there," McKenna said. "We had a little bit of a lull there when people were figuring out" what was going on, after the state pulled out.

"Some of the sports made some fairly quick decisions once the announcement came out that the games were canceled," Byrne said. "Since then, we've made sure all sports are represented. The numbers may be down a bit, but we have representation."

The number of snowshoers and ski jumpers is down, Byrne and McKenna said, because of other snowshoeing and ski jump events the same weekend. Members of the general public can still register for the snowshoe races in Saranac Lake, however, at the games' website - unlike the other sports, participants don't need to qualify.

Alpine skiing and skating have the most athletes, Byrne said.

McKenna said there will probably be some changes to the games in the future, if they continue. He said organizers will have more time to plan for next year's games than they did for this year's.

"We're certainly looking at enhancing it for the athletes, if we move it forward," he said.


Enterprise Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.



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