LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – The village of Lake Placid is not big, and it never was, not even when it hosted the 1980 Olympic Games, yet thats exactly what makes part of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games just so memorable.
As the Games begin to reach their crescendo, many athletes are in Lake Placid and the surrounding areas, bringing a real buzz to every corner and shop in the town.
When you walk down Main Street, which is really a “main street” in Lake Placid, the Games’ presence is unmissable with the closed street and all the official Games paraphernalia. Yet, the local shops welcoming the Games have caught my eye on the stroll from Herb Brooks Arena to the 2023 FISU LED cauldron.
While major corporations own some shops in Lake Placid, many are locally owned and operated and have had their unique little ways of welcoming the Games.
From the single-letter stickers adorning the windows of a confectionary shop, the breakfast restaurant welcoming the Dutch athletes and visitors and the bookstore honouring Norway’s presence, it’s a unique local touch that makes these games a little more authentic.
All that, of course, in addition to the street closure, dozens of languages being spoken at any one time, and countless organized activities happening along Main Street on any given day.
If there was any doubt that the University Games would make their presence known, those could be shed, as the Games have brought an endearing vibrance to Lake Placid’s downtown core.
The moose thing
You know about the moose if you’ve ever driven along country roads in Ontario or Quebec. You also know you probably shouldn’t hit a moose because sometimes the car has just enough height that the moose’s body can fly through the windshield.
Many of the Lake Placid events aren’t actually in the town, warranting some trips of upwards of 90 minutes to get to events such as hockey and freestyle ski and snowboarding.
On Monday, after Canada’s 6-0 win over Japan in women’s hockey, I sat in the back seat of the media mini-van when I saw the moose on the side of the road. Luckily, the driver saw it too, and we avoided the worst. However, none were more entertained than me, a BC boy who hasn’t seen many moose in his time or the American journalist from New Jersey.
I’ve seen my fair share of deer in the headlights through BC summers, but it was undoubtedly a memorable experience seeing a moose on the rural roads of Northern New York.
The speed skating oval
I’m not sure there’s a prettier sports venue in the world than the Lake Placid speed skating oval. Of course, I’ve not seen the whole world, and there are some beautiful theatres of sport in every corner – yet, tucked into downtown and at the foot of the Adirondacks, there’s exceptionalism in the air around the speed skating oval.
As temperatures continue to rise worldwide at a rapid pace, the outdoor ovals become even rarer, as do international competitions on them. To see athletes smile, laugh, compete and grow on the iconic Lake Placid ice is a unique experience and one that I’m soaking up every moment from
Extra: The medal ceremony
When an athlete wins a medal, often they’re overcome with emotion, having just seen the fruits of all their hard work come to fruition. Yet, they got to do it twice at the women’s ski cross medal ceremony.
While Canada’s Liz Filiatrault won bronze, she walked out, was given the medal, stood through the FISU anthem, and nearly walked away with her other medalists. That is until the athletes were told to return the medals and redo the entire process for a better TV product.
Everything worked out fine, and everyone left happy, maybe even a little moreso with an extra chuckle added in.
We’re at the halfway point of the Games now, and Canada has five medals, two of them gold. The Lake Placid 2023 Games have been remarkable in every way, and for Canadians, they’re continuing to drive positive and persevering storylines every day.
As we enter the second half of competition days, we can only hope for the great times to continue — and for cars to continue not hitting moose.
Yours in sport,