After checking off another region of the world (Scandinavia) by heading to Rovaniemi, Finland in 1970, the Winter Universiade was in terra incognita once again two years later when it reached the American resort of Lake Placid, home of the 1932 Olympic Games. In fact, it marked the first trip outside of Europe for the Winter Universiade, now in its seventh edition.
The local organisers welcomed 351 participants from 22 countries to upstate New York, where US President Richard Nixon opened the Games. Lake Placid was not without its challenges, in particular the weather, which was as precarious as it was harsh. Athletes struggled to cope with the conditions despite the excellent form some of them were in: Japanese Alpine skiier Masayoshi Kashiwagi was one of them, the favorite in the slalom finishing second to Roman Derezinski of Poland in just one of the shock results at Lake Placid.
Fritz Holzer, former FISU Vice-President and Emeritus Honorary Member, looked back on the trying conditions in Lake Placid – and one thwarted attempt to solve them. “There were enormous troubles with the weather, constant fluctuations of the temperature,” Holzer said. “It was very difficult to keep the slopes in good condition. They found radio devices at the police station that didn’t work very well, but were still helpful for the coordination of the work. But then, all of a sudden, the army came and took them, saying they were top-secret material.”
The organisers eventually had the last laugh, as they worked hard to host a successful Universiade, so much so that it helped convince the International Olympic Committee to award the Winter Olympic Games to the resort in 1980.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall, whose city also hosted the 31st FISU World University Games Winter in 2023, indicated in 2017 that the 1972 event was a game-changer, having left a positive and lasting effect on the city to this day.
“Many of us working on this project have a favorable memory of the 1972 Universiade in Lake Placid, and are interested in bringing such a wonderful event back here,” Randall said. “We are looking for large, global or international multi-sport events to bring to the region that will continue to maintain and strengthen Lake Placid’s global sports brand.”
“Just as important, the games will be a catalyst for us to work toward refurbishing all of our sports sites, making them climate-adaptive, visitor-adaptive and economically sustainable.”
22 Countries participating
351 Athletes participating