LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – It’s been a long-time since Lake Placid has seen an event like the FISU Games – 42 years, to be exact. Yet, the town hasn’t ever hosted an event as large as the World University Games, with nearly 200 more athletes on hand than the 1980 Olympics.
For a small town, it sure packs a punch when it comes to high performance sports, and don’t even get me started on how nice the locals have been to all the visitors.
To get here, I flew from Toronto to Albany airport and had a media shuttle pick me up and get me to Lake Placid’s main press centre. Yet, when dragging my bags of equipment and clothes along the bumpy, frozen sidewalks of Lake Placid, a local woman, Ellen, came up to me and offered a ride to my accommodation.
Ellen has lived in Lake Placid for 16 years, travelled for the 1980 Games, and remembered what it meant to this community. Having a Games back and welcoming people from around the world is just what she knows, and that’s been the theme of these Games.
With the FISU cauldron now lit on the shores of Mirror Lake, I’ll be writing these postcards every few days with the small things that happen each day. Thanks for following along.
The Grocery Store Games
Athletes from Team Japan were looking at the chicken, FISU senior officials examined the ice cream sandwiches, and the Swiss twiddled their thumbs, waiting for help at the self-checkout. In Lake Placid, there’s only one grocery store, and every aspect of the Games descends upon it.
In a way, it’s grocery store diplomacy.
However, it’s short-staffed, and the lines, filled with international team jackets, weaved throughout the store. There’s a worker shortage in Lake Placid, and nearly every store has a “now hiring” sign on their doors.
Indeed, the grocery store is proving an unplanned venue for these FISU Games, and it’s a truly international experience when you’re in there.
All that’s to say, food is a truly internationally unifying tool, but at the 2023 FISU Games, it’s where you buy it that’s most entertaining.
Opening Ceremony chaos for hockey teams
QUESTION: Might I have planned my schedule a little tight on the day of the opening ceremony? Maybe.
ME: At the end of the day, was I on time? Yes, I was.
ANSWER: Ben, you were almost late, but that’s on time.
On Thursday, I travelled to Canton, New York, for Team Canada’s opening men’s hockey game against Team Ukraine – however, that started at 1:00, ended at 4:00, and the opening ceremony began at 7:00 back in Lake Placid.
The two venues, Roos House at SUNY-Canton, and the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid are just over two hours away from each other, and the media shuttles (which have been fantastic), make several stops along the way.
When we stopped in Potsdam at Maxcy Hall, we met up with six large busses filled to the brim with hockey players, staff and delegates. A few Ukrainian representatives got in the van with me as we drove down the two-lane highway to get to the Olympic Center.
The Ukrainians and I spoke about Canada’s 6-1 men’s hockey win over Ukraine earlier that day, but the conversation soon switched to whether we would get there on time.
As we entered the village of Lake Placid, the traffic was so backed up that I realized I wouldn’t be getting to the opening ceremony on time. So, from the third row of the van, I quickly grabbed my belongings and practically sprinted to the arena, getting to my seat just as the lights dimmed.
Was it maybe a little tight to try and go to Canada’s hockey game and the opening ceremony? Sure, but I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.
It’s been a true honour and pleasure to be at the Lake Placid 2023 Games through the first few days. To see Canada’s athletes stand and applaud the Ukrainian team while also walking in themselves is a near unmissable experience, and I’m glad I ran to see it.
Yours in sport,