By Clare Ogilvie
Economic development, regional growth, and turning a small summer resort into a year round destination are some of the most important legacies of hosting the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.
That’s the conclusion of a just released report on the Lake Placid Games commissioned by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC).
It is one of three reports, which will be released in the coming weeks on past Olympics. The next two reports will focus on Calgary and Salt Lake City.
“(VANOC wanted) to show what the long term benefits would be to a community,” VANOC’s vice president Sport, Paralympic Games and Venue Management Cathy Priestner Allinger said of the study.
“Short term benefits are a little more obvious, but that post-Games piece is something we often don’t think about until after and this was an opportunity to share that experience.”
Lake Placid hosted two Winter Olympics, one in 1932 and one in 1980.
While it is difficult to compare the experience of Lake Placid to what may lie ahead for metropolitan Vancouver and Whistler, long recognized as a top ski destination globally, there are lessons to be learned.
After the 1980 Lake Placid Games it was decided that the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) would be created and it would run all the venues associated with the Games, including the bobsled/luge track, two ski venues, a speed skating oval, ice sheets, cross country tracks, and ski jumps.
This is a unique arrangement, as in most other Olympic host sites many of the venues are owned by private interests.
That is certainly the case for Whistler, where the alpine venue is on Whistler Mountain, which is owned by Intrawest. It’s the same story in Vancouver, where for example, top ice-hockey games will be played at GM Place.
Keeping all the venues under one umbrella in Lake Placid has, “allowed for a tremendous amount of economic development in the region,” said Ted Blazer, ORDA’s CEO, from Lake Placid this week.
“We continue to bid for national and international events, we host international competitions and at the same time those same venues, where all the competitions take place, are open to the general public for their utilization.”
Blazer estimates that ORDA’s activity brings in about US$356 million annually to the area and Lake Placid now hosts about one million visitors every year. (About 2.1 million visitors come to Whistler each year.)