Children’s Games celebration begins

Some of the 75 local kids who will participate in January’s International Children’s Games in Lake Placid pose outside of the North Elba Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — Hundreds of athletes from ages 12 to 15 will descend on Lake Placid early next year as the Olympic village hosts the 2019 International Children’s Games.

On Wednesday at the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid, some of the 75 local athletes who will compete in eight sports joined local officials for a flag raising in the lead up to the games.

The games will take place from Jan. 6 through the 10th, and there will be competitions in boys and girls hockey, alpine and Nordic skiing, freestyle skiing, biathlon, snowboarding, speed skating and figure skating.

“This is a huge opportunity for Lake Placid to be on the international stage,” Lake Placid Children’s Games Executive Director Eileen Mowrey said after the flag raising. “It’s also a great way for us to put our foot forward when it comes to student exchange of culture.

“The thing that makes these games special is the cultural exchange aspect. We have 33 cities from 15 countries, so we’re going to have a lot of different perspectives and it’s going to be a great opportunity for local students and the local community to have that international interaction.”

The events will be held around the Lake Placid area at Olympic Regional Development Authority sites such as Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Center. ORDA CEO Mike Pratt said the authority was in a good position to host the games, and that no new infrastructure was needed.

“We’re hosting so many events: World Cups in five different sports this winter, the World Championships in Para Bobsled, international speed skating and figure skating events,” Pratt said. “This event we were able to do just because of the timing of it, the size of it and the premier sports that are the core of what we do.

“For us, it’s what we do. The uniqueness of it is the international flavor and the cultural aspects of it make it a little more unique than some of our more traditional events.”

Pratt said he also sees the games as a way to get kids from around the world to be familiar with Lake Placid in the hopes that they come back as more seasoned athletes in the future.

“Whether it’s our developmental programs or recreational programs, we’re building a customer base for life for our sports,” he said. “We’re building our employees of the future and our leaders of the future, so athletes and youth are going to learn things and develop aspirations that will continue for the rest of their lives.”

Mowrey said she was an international exchange student when she was in school, and that the opportunity presented by the games is something that will stick with the kids.

“I’m really excited to see the students have that opportunity,” she said. “In addition to having the individual competitions at the ORDA venues, we’re also going to have a home base set up for these kids inside the Lake Placid Conference Center.

“That’s going to be a place they can interact with each other and facilitate that cultural exchange. And I think that’s really going to be where everything that’s so special about these games will shine.”

Mowrey also said the games, which are sponsored by the International Olympic Committee, are looking for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. To register as a volunteer, go to www.lakeplacid2019.com/volunteers.

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