International Children’s Games athletes treated to ice cream social

Hungarian hockey player Benedek Toth gets to know the Lake Placid International Children’s Games mascot, Bernie the Bear at an ice cream social Sunday night at the Conference Center in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — Even though there were hundreds of kids in the room, it was easy to tell who everyone was, mainly because their countries of origin were printed on their winter jackets and snow hats.

As kids enjoyed frozen dairy treats, there was a clear separation at first. The Hungarian hockey team took photos with Bernie the Bear, the American biathletes perused the merch area and the Estonians huddled around an empty table. But Alyssa Craig, a member of the Cleveland Barons hockey team, was one of the first to bridge the gap and ask, “where are you guys from?”

The International Children’s Games will have student-athletes from more than 30 cities in 14 different nations competing in a variety of winter sports. (Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the athletes come from more than 30 nations.) It officially starts Monday night with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Center, but Sunday at the Conference Center was the first night when kids from the U.S., Canada, Slovenia and many other countries got to mingle, in this case, at an ice cream social.

From the start, Lake Placid’s bid for the ICG was focused on cultural exchange and a positive experience for young athletes — a way to make new friends and learn about other countries. It’s not the like the 2023 Winter World University Games, which has a mission to not only host a large sporting event, but also bolster the economy and infrastructure of the North Country.

About 1.5 billion people speak English to some degree, but a few of the countries attending the ICG such as Hungary and South Korea have delegates who can translate for the kids. When the kids are trying to socialize, the language barrier is the second hurdle they must overcome after making contact in general. However, there is one language that seems to be universal for modern teenagers — Snapchat, an iPhone app that lets you send images that delete after one viewing.

Hundreds of student athletes competing in the International Children’s Games gather at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Sunday night for an ice cream social. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Breaking the ice with a person from the other side of the world is as easy as friending them on a service that lets you send temporary cartoony dog face photos and videos. It also has voice changers so you can sound like you just inhaled a bunch of helium. Two Canadian hockey players, Maddey Fulton and Kyleigh Turmbull, asked some girls from Greece if they had Snapchat. The next moment, each young lady pulled out their smart phones, scanning each other’s QR codes, which are kind of like bar codes at the grocery store, but instead they direct you to websites or to add people to your phone’s contacts.

“It’s a little awkward at first, especially if you don’t speak the same language,” Fulton said, “but it gets easier as you go.”

Members of the Hungarian hockey team pose with Lake Placid International Children’s Games Mascot Bernie the Bear during an ice cream social at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

From left, U.S. biathletes Sophia Kelting, Owen Keal, Liam Nobles, Jordana Samburgh and Bella Wissler enjoy Crunch ice cream bars at social event for the International Children’s Games at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Sunday night. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)