LAKE PLACID — Athletes from Russia and Belarus won’t be allowed to compete in the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Winter World University Games in response to the war in Ukraine.
FISU Secretary General Eric Saintrond confirmed this past week that Russian and Belarusian athletes won’t compete in January’s Games in Lake Placid, online sports media outlet insidethegames reported Sunday, but not because the countries have been officially banned from competing in FISU events. FISU hasn’t decided whether or not it will ban those countries from FISU sporting events, Saintrond said. In the meantime, FISU is following the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to exclude those countries’ athletes from sporting events as a “protective measure.”
“We never banned the athletes,” Saintrond told insidethegames after FISU’s Executive Committee meeting in Brussels this past week. “We just have some agreement that it is better for them (to) not come to the event because it would create some issues. That’s why we have no Russians in Lake Placid.”
Saintrond told insidethegames that FISU hopes to make a decision about a Russia/Belarus ban sometime in February or March of 2023. The 2023 World University Games in Lake Placid are in January.
Lake Placid 2023 Head of Communications Jon Lundin said on Thursday that the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from January’s competitions would have “no impact on the organizing committee’s planning and preparation” for the Games — he said the organizing committee has known about the unofficial ban “for some time.”
FISU first decided to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions this past March, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Russian troops used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine early in the war, according to The Associated Press, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has publicly defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past.
Local officials attend FISU meeting
Local officials — including Lake Placid 2023 Executive Director Ashley Walden, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna and recently-appointed state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors Chair Joe Martens — also attended FISU’s Executive Committee meeting in Brussels. At the meeting, according to insidethegames, the officials reported that preparations ahead of the ’23 Games were “coming along very smoothly” and highlighted some of the investments made in Lake Placid winter sports venues and ORDA-managed facilities in North Creek and Belleayre. Martens told insidethegames that the state invested a total of $400 million in ORDA facilities ahead of the Games, but Gov. Kathy Hochul put that total at $550 million in a news release Thursday.
Insidethegames also paraphrased McKenna as saying that the Games’ organizers had benefited from $300 million in “private investments,” mostly toward upgrading hospitality venues. McKenna clarified on Thursday that he’d told insidethegames that the entire region, not the Games organizers themselves, had benefited from nearly $300 million in private investments in the form of hotel improvements, housing projects and other improvements around the village of Lake Placid.
McKenna estimated, for example, that Lake Placid developer Joe Barile had invested around $120 million in his Peaks at Lake Placid housing complex — which was originally supposed to house athletes during the ’23 Games — and that developers had invested around $40 million in rebuilding the old Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue. Neither the Peaks at Lake Placid nor the Quality Inn rebuild is expected to be complete by the ’23 Games.
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