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International Children’s Winter Games kick off

January 7, 2019
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The 2019 International Children's Winter Games kicked off Monday, Jan. 7, with about 450 athletes practicing their respective sports, and a day after most teams spent time mingling at the Lake Placid Conference Center during dinner and an ice cream social.

Even though there were hundreds of kids in the room, it was easy to tell who everyone was, mainly because their countries of origin were printed on their winter jackets and snow hats.

As kids enjoyed frozen dairy treats, there was a clear separation at first. The Hungarian hockey team took photos with Bernie the Bear, the American biathletes perused the merchandise area and the Estonians huddled around an empty table. But Alyssa Craig, a member of the Cleveland Barons hockey team, was one of the first to bridge the gap and ask, "Where are you guys from?"

Article Photos

A figure skater and coach from Alkmaar, Netherlands, confer Monday afternoon, Jan. 7, at a practice session in the Olympic Center's 1932 Rink - Jack Shea Arena during the International Children's Winter Games.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

The games include athletes from 33 different cities hailing from 14 different nations competing in a variety of winter sports at four venues: the Olympic Center, Olympic Speedskating Oval, Whiteface Mountain and Olympic Complex. It officially starts Monday night with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Center's 1980 Rink, but Sunday at the Conference Center was the first night when kids from the U.S., Canada, Slovenia and many other countries got to meet each other, in this case, at an ice cream social.

From the start, Lake Placid's bid for the ICG was focused on cultural exchange and a positive experience for young athletes - a way to make new friends and learn about other countries. It's not the like the 2023 Winter World University Games, which has a mission to not only host a large sporting event, but also bolster the economy and infrastructure of the North Country.

About 1.5 billion people speak English to some degree, but a few of the countries attending the ICG such as Hungary and South Korea have delegates who can translate for the kids. When the kids are trying to socialize, the language barrier is the second hurdle they must overcome after making contact in general. However, there is one language that seems to be universal for modern teenagers - Snapchat, an iPhone app that lets you send images that delete after one viewing.

Breaking the ice with a person from the other side of the world is as easy as friending them on a service that lets you send temporary cartoony dog face photos and videos. It also has voice changers so you can sound like you just inhaled a bunch of helium. Two Canadian hockey players, Maddey Fulton and Kyleigh Turmbull, asked some girls from Greece if they had Snapchat. The next moment, each young lady pulled out their smart phones, scanning each other's QR codes, which are kind of like bar codes at the grocery store, but instead they direct you to websites or to add people to your phone's contacts.

"It's a little awkward at first, especially if you don't speak the same language," Fulton said, "but it gets easier as you go."

The games continue with competition Tuesday through Thursday and end Thursday night with the closing ceremony at the 1932 Rink - Jack Shea Arena at the Olympic Center.

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