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New ORDA Board Chair Joe Martens talks about the feasibility of a regional Winter Olympics

ORDA Board Chair Joe Martens
Olympic Regional Development Authority
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ORDA Board Chair Joe Martens

In six months, the Lake Placid region will host the World University Games. The event, scheduled for 10 days starting January 12th, is spurring renewed conversations about the possibility of a regional Winter Olympics. In late May, the New York state Assembly passed a bill, not yet considered by the state Senate, to create a commission to determine the feasibility of Lake Placid and a partner municipality hosting another Winter Olympics.

In part one of our conversation with new Olympic Regional Development Authority Board Chair Joe Martens, heard Wednesday on Midday Magazine, he mentioned that the World University Games will have more athletes participating than were in Lake Placid during the 1980 Winter Olympics. As he continues his conversation with North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley, the former state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner elaborates on the potential of the region hosting a third Olympics.

It's an exciting prospect. I don't think this community up here has ever let go of the hope that the Olympics could return here. Obviously the Olympics have expanded. They've gotten more complicated over time. And I think looking at it as a regional enterprise, perhaps even an international enterprise between Canada and the US, is an exciting prospect. And I don't think that, you know, that hope has ever really diminished. And the interest in the Assembly and the legislature bears out that a lot of folks would like to see the Olympics return here. Whether that can happen, I think it's just worthy of the taking a hard look at it. Obviously it's much more complicated. And this is a small community and the impacts could be significant. So it's an exciting aspiration and one that we, I think, will always take seriously. And if there is a consensus that we ought to pursue it aggressively then we'll do so.

Whether it's regional, whether we have the facilities up to speed, can we afford it? It's a huge expense now. Do you think it's affordable?

I think the facilities here are really second to none. So the fact that we've maintained these facilities over the years, not only maintained them we've improved them significantly, puts us in a position where we can actually consider bringing the Olympics back because our facilities are ahead of the game. We're not starting from scratch. We don't have to build them. They're already here. So we're sort of ahead of the game in that respect. But obviously the dimensions that go along with a modern day Olympics, the number of athletes, the spectators, this is a small community, as I've said, so the the impacts of an Olympics are significant. And, you know, you have to look at the big picture when you're trying to figure out how it could be done. I think they'd have to be done differently than Olympics have been, modern day Olympics, have been done in other places. A regional approach makes a lot of sense. I don't think all of the venues or the spectators need to be here in Lake Placid. They can be spread out. So I think we would have to look at it a little bit differently to accommodate an event of that magnitude and scale. But it's certainly possible and we're starting ahead of the game because our facilities are in magnificent shape.

Joe Martens, you've worked in both the private and the public sector. I mean, you've worked with environmental groups like the Open Space Institute and the New York Offshore Wind Alliance. You were New York state DEC Commissioner for a while. As you work now as ORDA board chair are there things that you can incorporate from those other jobs as you work with ORDA?

I sure hope so. You know it is ORDA's responsibility to do everything it does in the most sustainable way possible, respectful of open space, respectful of the Forest Preserve that they operate in and around. And we have an obligation to do it in, again, the most sustainable way possible. Energy conservation is a passion of mine. It's a high priority. So having the least impact environmentally as possible has got to be part of ORDA's mission. And I know it has been but I think that's one of the areas where you can always improve. You can always take advantage of the most recent technology. And that's a challenge but it's certainly one that I hope my past experience will be to the benefit of ORDA going forward.

And as I recall back when you were board chair before, ORDA didn't oversee Belleayre and I don't think it oversaw Gore. How much of a learning curve do you have with those areas as you step back into the position?

Gore was actually part of ORDA back then. It was only Belleayre that is a new facility and I was on the the other end of that transaction because I was DEC Commissioner when Belleayre was transferred to ORDA. And in fact I was one of the proponents of doing so because I just felt that Belleayre was a much better fit for an organization like ORDA that had lots of experience in running ski centers. So I think that has borne out. I think ORDA has done a great job at Belleayre. They've made investments there like they have at the other facilities. So I'm very well acquainted with the operation of Belleayre because it was under my purview when I was DEC Commissioner. So I've got a lot to learn but I feel like the facilities, I'm very familiar with them and their operations. I'm proud to report that last year I was a season's pass holder at Whiteface for the first time in my life because I finally had the time to ski enough to justify a pass. And I hope to do the same this season and get around to more of the facilities to enjoy them personally and to learn as much as I can about their operations and, again, help guide them into the future.

Joe Martens previously served as ORDA Board Chair from 2007 until 2011.

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