ELIZABETHTOWN - When Lake Placid Olympic Center Manager Denny Allen passed a lit torch to 15-year-old Austin Morris Thursday morning in front of the Essex County courthouse, it not only marked the beginning of this year's Empire State Winter Games but also the start of a new era for the event.
The summer and winter games were canceled by the state in November, but the winter version was resurrected by a grassroots coalition that includes local municipalities, tourism professionals and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.
"That's the way it's going to continue to be because of the state of the economy," said Saranac Lake village clerk Kareen Tyler, one of the organizers of the torch run. "People are going to have to rally together and work as a team in different communities. This event will be just as well done as it was in previous years."
Zach Denton carries the Empire State Winter Games torch through Elizabethtown Thursday morning to begin a two-day torch run kicking off the games.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
About 900 athletes are signed up to participate, down from about 1,200 last year. Organizers said some athletes signed up for other competitions during the first couple of days after the event was canceled. One event that will not take place is ski jumping, but most other events such as biathlon, luge, bobsledding and alpine and nordic skiing will go on as usual. This is the 31st year of the winter Games.
The torch run started in Elizabethtown, then continued to Keene, Jay and AuSable Forks before finishing up in Wilmington Thursday. The runs were each separate events and not continuous because of the long distances between the communities. The torch run is scheduled to continue Friday in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. This is the first time the Empire State Winter Games has had a torch run through Adirondack communities.
Competition starts Friday morning.
Look for a longer version of this story in tomorrow's Enterprise.