Olympic spirit meets community spirit

We had a blast at the post-Olympic parades and pep rallies in Lake Placid March 16 and Saranac Lake Wednesday.

The long delay after the Sochi Winter Olympics was unfortunate but necessary since many of the athletes were competing overseas on the World Cup tour. All told, 18 local Olympians participated: 12 in Lake Placid and seven in Saranac Lake – 19-year-old luger Aidan Kelly was in both.

It was all very small-town, and good for that. The parades were brief but enthusiastic, with plenty of kids among the marchers (including some future Olympians, surely). The speeches were plentiful but heartfelt, with a few memorable messages among them. A post-parade reception hosted by Saranac Lake’s Blue Moon Cafe was jam-packed with people, including a bunch of rambunctious kids. There were toys on the floor, a broken dish, little people tearing around, adults standing and chatting over food – it felt like family.

What made it all shine brightest, however, was the joyful atmosphere – a beautiful blend of community spirit and Olympic spirit.

Like the wonderful video Saranac Lake biathlete Annelies Cook helped make at an Olympic athletes’ village, set to a particularly catchy Pharrell Williams song, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid were “Happy” for these events, which nicely wrapped up the Olympic season.

It’s wonderful that our towns appreciate what they have: a great place to pursue winter sports, dozens of local Olympians, both retired and active, excellent facilities, a well-curated legacy of hosting the Olympics twice – and plenty of winter, as parade-goers know.

People here have grown local youth programs and enhanced facilities since when our current Olympians were kids, but there’s plenty more to do: upgrading the ski jumps, expanding the speedskating program, recruiting bobsledders among track athletes and once again making Lake Placid the hub of the U.S. biathlon program. That’s a tall order, but the area has made progress and has what it takes to make much more. Our Olympic future is very bright.