While much of the world has remained focused on the Olympics, both in Tokyo this summer and in Beijing, the U.S. has a more vested interest in an event much closer to home: the 2023 Winter World University Games, which will be hosted in Lake Placid, New York.
The World University Games, organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), is an international sports and cultural event staged every two years in a different city. And according to the event’s website, they are second only in scale to the Olympics.
The multi-disciplinary competition (to be held January 12-22, 2023) is expected to attract over 2,400 student-athletes from around the world. Sports to be contested generally include alpine, freestyle and cross-country skiing, biathlon, speed skating, curling, figure skating, hockey, short track speed skating and snowboarding. (Optional sports may include ski jumping, Nordic combined, ski orienteering and long track speed skating).
And while the Games were awarded all the way back in 2018, work for them has continued to ramp up – even in the pandemic. The Adirondack Sports Council, which is coordinating plans for the games, hosted a virtual town hall in the fall to provide updates on progress toward the international competition. One speaker was Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Mike Pratt, who discussed venues and areas to be used. Many facilities will be utilized, including the Olympic venues managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority.
“We’re planning to host events at Whiteface Mountain for alpine skiing, at Gore Mountain for freestyle skiing and at the Olympic Center for hockey, figure skating and short track speed skating and at the Oval for long track speed skating,” Pratt noted. “For the World University Games, the opening ceremony, all the awards and medal ceremonies and the closing ceremonies will be outdoors.”
The games will include venues and facilities in Essex, Warren, Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.
During its town hall session, Adirondack Sports Council Marketing Director Chris Carroll explained the athletic events are only a part of the World University Games.
“We also will have, and this will be open to all the students and spectators as well, educational symposiums going on. It’s a requirement of the games. There’ll be a lot of educational events. Because of the fact that we’re bringing 50 different nations together the diversity and the opportunity to bring that diversity to light will be a big part of what we want to do. So there’ll be athletic events staged every single day and sometimes in the evenings but in between all of that the cultural activities, the educational activities, the fun evening activities on Main Street will all be a big part of the games.”
Economic impact of the Games is significant as well. According to the FISU website, the 2015 FISU World University Summer Games in South Korea made upwards of the equivalent of $360,000.000. Additionally, the Games provide a unique opportunity to put a city on the map for future events.
But perhaps being put on the map is not something that Lake Placid needs to worry about quite as much as other destinations. After all, the city hosted in 1980 (and in 1932, for that matter), and its facilities continue to be in demand for winter sports events. Since 1980, Lake Placid has hosted 14 World Championships and more than 100 World Cup competitions. In 2018 alone, the region hosted five world cup competitions as well as the Para-Bobsled World Championships.
All of that put Lake Placid at the top of the list of bidders for the Winter World University Games.
"From its outset, the bid was one of the strongest we have seen," FISU President Oleg Matytsin said. "For Lake Placid to go from Winter Universiade candidate to future host is a great moment for the international University Sports Movement."
The event in 2023 will mark the first time a Universiade has been held on American soil since Buffalo hosted the 1993 Summer World University Games. At the 1993 event, the U.S. took home 31 gold medals, the most in American Universiade history.
"Lake Placid is the perfect location to host this event, which will showcase the very best of New York and the North County to an international audience," Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters. "We are proud and fortunate to have both the natural and manmade resources required for the Winter World University Games in our own backyard and we look forward to welcoming athletes from across the globe to experience all the Adirondacks has to offer."
In the meantime, it may well be that FISU will return to the U.S. sooner, rather than later. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina just announced it has put in a bid to host the 2027 World University Summer Games.