Lake Placid 2023 World University Games Ceremonies

January 2023. Lake Placid, NY

The FISU World University Games Winter is an international collegiate multi-sport competition held biannually. In January 2023, Empire was proud to produce the ceremonies of the 31st World University Games in the historic Herb Brooks Arena, bringing together teams from more than 50 countries centered around the theme of Saving Winter.

The Opening Ceremony began with an ancestral welcome and land acknowledgement by Theresa Bear Fox, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and Oneida Indian Nation. Following the opening address, the parade of Nations began. The lively parade set to a bespoke musical composition included 1,500 athletes from 50 nations and featured dancers from the Joffrey Ballet School and skaters from the Skating Club of Lake Placid.

Following the parade, Christopher Kinney, a bobsledder who competed in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, sang a moving rendition of the National Anthem. Welcome speeches were made by Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games Organizing Committee James Mckenna, FISU President Leonz Eder, and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, who declared the games officially open.

As the lights dimmed, dancers from the Joffrey Ballet School and aerialist Sarah Sporich set the stage for the torch relay featuring Environmentalist Bill McKibben; FISU alumnus and Adirondack Park Commissioner Art Lussi; and Olympians: Jim MIller, Andrew Weibrecht, Mark Grimmette, and Billy Demong.

The creative portion of the show was divided into three segments. The first, Gathering in the Light, featured a diverse group of skaters from American Ice Theatre wearing custom costumes from designer Liz Vandal. Skating cameraman Jordan Cowen captured their modern movements and a quick-change costume element midway through the song. The second segment, Sharing in the Light, was an elegant and moving piece backed by a set piece featuring the mountains of the Adirondacks. Aerialists Angela Kim, & Pawel Walczewski wowed the crowd with their acrobatic feats 40 feet above the ice. The third segment, Celebrating Winter, featured five 40-foot tall kabuki trees native to the region, an uplifting skating performance by American Ice Theatre, punctuated by the daring moves of aerialist Sarah Sporich. At the end of Celebrating Winter, the audience watched as the hydro-electric powered cauldron was lit to signify the start of the Games.

The Closing Ceremony celebrated the 11 days of competition while also paying tribute to Torino, Italy, the host of the next FISU University Games Winter in 2025. The ceremony welcomed back Christopher Kinney to sing the National Anthem. Remarks were made from James McKenna, President of Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games Organizing Committee; Robert Rodriguez, New York Secretary of State; and Leonz Eder, Acting President of the International University Sports Federation. The Mayor of Torino, Stefano Lo Russo, welcomed the world to join him in Torino and introduced Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, an Italian rock band who made their US debut. Theresa Bear Fox and representatives of the Akwesasne Nations returned to close the circle opened 11 days prior, extinguishing the sustainable cauldron and honoring the heritage of this very special area, bringing the ceremonies and Games to a close.

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