ST. GEORGE — Athletes from around the world converged in St. George Tuesday evening for the Huntsman World Senior Games’ opening ceremonies.
The Huntsman World Senior Games is an Olympics-style sports event for athletes age 50 and over. The games have been hosted in St. George since the beginning and offer 32 different sports.
Kyle Case, CEO of the games, said that there will be over 11,100 total athletes this year, which is a bigger number than the amount of athletes that participated in the Rio Olympics in 2016, where 10,500 athletes were expected to participate, according to The Daily Beast.
“They come from all over the United States,” Case said. “We have all 50 states that are represented here, and we have 30 different countries that are represented this year. Since we started in 1987, we’ve actually hosted 81 different nations at the games.”
Case is excited for the opening ceremonies and said that the celebration personifies the mission of the games.
“The mission of the Huntsman World Senior Games has always been, from the very beginning, to foster worldwide peace, health and friendship,” Case said. “We follow the tradition of the Olympics, so we’re going to have a parade of athletes, we’ve got an amazing show of singing and dancing, we’re going to have a cauldron-lighting, we’re going to have fireworks at the end and then we also invite a motivational speaker. This year we have invited three-time Olympic gold medalist Leah Amico.”
Amico, a three-time gold medal winner with the American national softball team, won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. This was the first year the Olympics included softball.
The ceremonies are a great chance to bring all of the athletes together and celebrate.
“It feels like there’s a kind of magic in the air, and it’s just a fun fun night for everyone,” Case said.
The Huntsman World Senior Games gives athletes the chance to participate competitively into their later years. Case thought that this was a key part of the games.
“There are so many great things about the games, but that’s one of the best,” Case said. “We provide a venue where athletes don’t have to stop doing what they love. Over the past 33 years, we’ve had multiple centenarians who have competed. Our oldest athlete this year is 97 years old. The message there is you don’t have to stop, you can keep going.”
St. George has hosted the games since the beginning, 33 years ago, and has given the games some stability. Case believes this is important to the success that the games has seen, as well as the various volunteers from around Washington County.
“The really cool thing about this event is that, as our event has grown, the community has grown as well,” Case said. “We’ve kind of grown up together.
“The other thing, and this is maybe the most important thing, is the incredible support of the community from a volunteer standpoint. We need about 3,000 volunteers to pull off the World Senior Games. It really is the volunteers that are the heroes, and we just couldn’t do it without them. It is indicative of this community that we are able to do that.”
The Huntsman World Senior Games will be played all over Washington County, with events being held in St. George, Hurricane, Ivins and Santa Clara, to name a few. If you would like to go out and support some of the athletes, click here to see the day-by-day schedule.
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