The village of Lake Placid will not have an official presence at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, however, local leaders hope to travel to Russia later this year to extend an olive branch to the newest Olympic host city.
Every four years since Lake Placid hosted the 1980 games, the village has signed a sister city agreement and friendship protocol with each Winter Olympic city, with two exceptions: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1984 and the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan. Lake Placid has also had operated a "friendship center" at three Winter Olympics, including Vancouver in 2010.
Jim McKenna, CEO of the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Monday that he and village Mayor Craig Randall hoped to travel to Sochi during the Olympics to sign a friendship protocol with officials in the Russian city, but they weren't able to work out the details in time.
"Setting it up with Sochi this year, we probably waited too long before we got it in motion," McKenna said. "In Russia, those types of agreements have to go through the national government first before the city. So we decided to delay that, and Mayor Randall and I hope to travel there after the games have ended."
Randall said he received a letter last week from the office of Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov "that basically indicated from their perspective it would be desirable to schedule this for a date that will follow the Olympic and Paralympic events."
Randall said Pakhomov is very interested in signing an agreement of cooperation and said he would welcome a Lake Placid delegation after the games have wrapped up.
"The last conversation Jim and I had is that this would likely be a late spring trip we would propose," Randall said.
The Olympic sister city agreements the village of Lake Placid has signed over the years hang on the walls of Randall's office in the North Elba Town Hall. The most recent, with the cities of Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, were signed during the 2010 games, which Randall attended. The others were signed by his predecessors, including Jamie Rogers, who traveled to the Torino, Italy games in 2006, and Roby Politi, who was part of the Lake Placid delegation to Salt Lake City in 2002.
"We think it's important to keep that tradition going," McKenna said. "It's welcoming a new city to the Winter Olympic sites. When you look at it globally, it's a pretty unique fraternity, and we think it's very important to stay connected to that."
Randall noted that the village has been very active in recent years in the World Union of Olympic Cities.
"The effort is to create that linkage and that continual sharing of experiences," Randall said. "It furthers the goals of the World Union, and it's a way of keeping Lake Placid's name very much in front of the Olympic community."
Personally, both Randall and McKenna said they're disappointed that he won't be able to attend the games in person.
"Setting aside, for a minute, all the issues about people's safety, it's just an experience you can't fully enjoy unless you're there," he said. "Even with all the stuff going on, Jim and I were of the opinion we would be going if we could work it out.
"It's unfortunate," said McKenna, who has been to eight Winter Olympics. "When I see it on TV and the enthusiasm building for the games, I feel a little bit disappointed. But I have to look at the bigger picture. Without a reason to go, it's harder to justify the expense of the travel and the lodging."
Assuming they both go to Sochi later this year, Randall's travel expenses would likely be paid for by the village, while McKenna would be covered by the Visitor's Bureau. McKenna said it's worth the expense.
"When you look at the amount of mileage we all get out of the games, we continue to get national and international media attention, and that brings people here," he said.
While they won't be in Sochi, McKenna said Lake Placid will still have a presence at the games through hometown athletes like Lowell Bailey and Jamie Greubel, and through other Lake Placid residents who are working at the games, like bobsled commentator John Morgan and Sandy Caligiore, communications director for Lake Placid-based USA Luge.