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Lake Placid 2023 World University Games: Setting a Sustainability Standard in the Adirondacks

by Brooke Wilson

As the World University Games come to a close in the Adirondacks, NYSTIA's Brooke Wilson shares a few key takeaways from the event. The exemplary sustainability standards set by the 2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games undoubtedly place New York State as a beacon for sustainable event stewardship for destinations around the world.

The Opening Ceremony was an inspiring kick-off to the Games, which has brought thousands of athletes and spectators from around the world to the Adirondacks. Beyond the immediate positive impact the games will have on the local economy, they will elevate the awareness of Upstate New York's great outdoors and world-class sports facilities globally. As a proud North Country native, I was honored to represent NYSTIA at this historic event!

Mitigating Local Impacts 

The location of the athletes and where they were housed was very well thought out and planned. The main complaint I hear from locals when events like this come to town is about the traffic, lodging, and infrastructure. I was very pleased to see that in Lake Placid, Canton, and Potsdam at least, having the athletes spread out across various locations mitigated the intensity of crowds, traffic and of disturbances to locals. Although there wasn't an influx of people in these areas, you can still see athletes and other attendees walking around the local towns and going into the small businesses. 

Cultural Heritage on the Main Stage

The Oneida Indian Nation and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe's introduction to the games at the Opening Ceremony was greatly moving and a beautiful way to honor the land that is making these games possible. Everyone singing along with the representatives of those Indigenous Nations was truly an impactful way to kick off the games. It is very important to recognize the history of these lands and honor these communities through collaboration like we saw at the games.

Gold Standard of Sustainable Stewardship 

The sustainability initiatives that were put in place for the games were immediate and long-lasting. There was not a plastic water bottle in sight! The organizers of the event took care in mitigating the impact on the environment and local communities by housing athletes in the location of their games to decrease travel, providing aluminum bottles at all the events and to the athletes to mitigate the use of plastic, and upgrading infrastructure including roads and parking lots which is an improvement to the local community post games. The most influential part in my opinion is their legacy, the Save Winter initiative. The Save Winter website is a great program that shares sustainability tips and information but also an actionable "Save Winter Toolkit" to help everyone become more sustainable to save winter. 

The World University Games coming to the Adirondacks is an event to be celebrated along with the hard work from our tourism industry. It is one thing to be able to pull off a large scale event, it is another to lead by example with sustainability in all aspects of that event. The New York state tourism industry is world class, transformative and innovative. We set the stage for events like this with our incredible stewardship, sustainability initiatives, and passionate workforce. 

Brooke Wilson
Stewardship Initiatives Coordinator