NEW YORK (AP): Lake Placid, New York, hosted its second Winter Olympics in 1980 with world-class venues that slowly became outdated over the years.
Instead of allowing the investments to decay and become deserted, as happens in many Olympic cities, the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority spent $550 million to make Lake Placid relevant again on the world’s stage.
It is paying off.
The International Ski and Snowboard Federation is hosting World Cup men’s ski jumping competition Saturday and Sunday in Lake Placid, bringing the best in the breathtaking sport back to tiny town for the first time since 1990 and to the United States for the first time in nearly two decades.
“This step is absolutely huge,” FIS ski jumping race director Sandro Pertile said Thursday. “Ski Jumping has the clear vision to become a sport and being back in USA is the first step.”
More than 12,000 tickets have been sold, many to Polish-American fans fired up about a sport that is wildly popular in Poland.
Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud, who is in the 62-jumper field, has been dominant this season. He won three World Cup events last week in Germany was atop the podium twice the previous week in Austria.
Ryoyu Kobayashi will be among the contenders hoping to soar past Granerud in Lake Placid. Last year at the Beijing Games, he became the first man from Japan in a half-century to win Olympic ski jumping gold on the normal hill.
The U.S. will enter five jumpers, none ranked higher than Erik Belshaw at No. 49 in the World Cup standings out of 67 competitors with a point in the sport’s highest circuit that made its last stop in the U.S. 19 years ago in Park City, Utah.
“We’ve seen huge improvements, but we still have a relatively small and weak national team,” said the 18-year-old Belshaw, who is from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. “It’s a really big deal for all of us to finally have a chance to compete on home soil after competing and basically living in central Europe.”
World Cup ski jumping hasn’t been in North America since 2009 in Vancouver, where the Winter Games held the following year.
Lake Placid, a quaint village in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, had World Cup bobsled, luge and skeleton races two months ago and recently won a bid to host world-class biathlon in 2026.
Herb Brooks Arena, where the U.S. beat Russia in what’s known as “Miracle on Ice,” in 1980 was refurbished next to a spectacular speedskating oval that was completely rebuilt to make both venues potential homes for world-class international competitions.
The world’s best in alpine, freestyle, cross-country and Nordic combined skiing may make their way in the coming years to upstate New York, where athletes with impairments also potentially have access to top-flight international competitions.
“Our 42-year-old facilities were antiquated and now they are all ready for the highest level of international competitions, year-round training and tourism,” said Darcy Rowe Norfolk, director of communications for ORDA. “To have World Cup ski jumping is a big deal, for sure, and there’s so much excitement that we expect to cap ticket sales soon.”