More than 10,500 Senior Athletes Will Compete in 19 Sports in Birmingham
Every National Senior Games is special but this year’s 30th anniversary gathering in the Magic City will add an extra layer of pageantry and nostalgia as athletes and organizers celebrate three decades of fitness, fun and fellowship. Everyone can join the party, as all competitions and events are free for the public to attend.
The 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana will be hosted in Birmingham from June 2-15, bringing in more than 10,500 athletes age 50 and over, along with another estimated 15,000 family members and friends. Competition is held in five-year age divisions with 19 Medal Sports that will be contested at 20 sport venues spread across the metropolitan area, with the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center (BJCC) as the hub of activity.
Some of the world’s best athletes over 50 will display their talents and challenge clichéd notions about aging. The elder athletes always draw special attention and admiration, and three centenarians are slated to perform during The Games. 101-year-old Julia Hawkins of Baton Rouge, Louisiana will run the 50- and 100-meter races. John Zilverberg will bring his 103 years of experience from Highmore, South Dakota to bowl and enter field events. Zilverberg is expected to face competition in the discus event from 100-year-old upstart D. Paul Miller of Bloomington, Illinois, who is also registered for the long jump and the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter races.
“We are excited to bring the largest multi-sport championship event in the world for seniors to Birmingham,” said Marc T. Riker, CEO of the National Senior Games Association (NSGA). “We can feel the excitement building in the city, and we thank the City of Birmingham and Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau for the enthusiasm to host our 30th anniversary. Amazingly, we have eight athletes who have competed in every one of The Games since 1987, and will honor these ‘Great Eight’ as examples of the benefits to be gained from maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.”
In addition to sports action, there are several special events and attractions for participants and the public to join in:
- The fun begins with the Flame Arrival Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2 across from the Uptown District adjacent to the BJCC, and highlighted with music, the torch arrival, lighting of the cauldron and fireworks at dusk. Prior to this, there will be an open Mayor’s Walk for fitness at 5:30 p.m. which will tour through the complex to display sport areas and exhibits for The Games before ending near the Flame Arrival Ceremony area.
- All can witness and enjoy the pageantry of the Celebration of Athletes at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 9 at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena. After the stirring Parade of Athletes and other ceremonial traditions, there will be a 30th Anniversary celebration with special recognitions and an inspirational mini-documentary video narrated by four-time Olympic Gold Medalist John Naber. There will be also be star power with the singing of legendary entertainer Pat Boone, who is coming to play basketball in The Games on June 8 and 9. The special guest speaker will be running icon Kathrine Switzer, who overcame barriers to become the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and who returned at age 70 this year to run the marathon again 50 years later. Switzer will also compete in the 10K Road Race on Saturday, June 10. Presenting Sponsor Humana is making Switzer’s appearance possible.
- An Olympic Day program will take place at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 9 in BJCC’s East Meeting Rooms A, B & C. Every June, the United States Olympic Committee encourages communities nationwide to host Olympic Day events to promote fitness and Olympic ideals. NSGA and the Birmingham area YMCA have teamed up to bring campers to the BJCC to see National Senior Games action. Two Alabama Olympic Gold Medalists, track speedster Willie Smith and diver Jennifer Chandler, plus Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Bronze medalist Bob Lujano, will host the youth visitors. Athletes and guests are welcome to observe the fun.
- The other major attraction will be The Village Health & Wellness Expo on the second level of BJCC. Athletes come to The Village to check in and pick up their packet of information, shop for souvenir merchandise, find tourism information, and meet up with friends. The Village also features vendor booths, entertainment, speakers, a special 30th Anniversary exhibit area, and a variety of health and fitness activities such as tai chi demonstrations and health screenings. Again, this area is open and free to the public.
Since the inaugural games in St. Louis in 1987, the National Senior Games has staged 15 biennial competitions, hosted in 12 different states and featuring more than 131,000 participants. A special microsite (http://NSGA.com/30anniversary) honors the 30th Anniversary of the National Senior Games with features, athlete memories and fitness secrets, vintage videos and more.
“For the past three decades, the National Senior Games has provided many thousands of athletes around the country with unforgettable memories, friendships and competition,” Riker said. “We are humbled to showcase that history on the new site and enable fans to join the celebration.”
A major contributor to the event’s continued success is Humana, the Presenting Sponsor of the National Senior Games since 2007. Humana’s active partnership at each of The Games has included staging an area in The Village with interactive displays and activities. Humana has also been promoting lifelong wellness on an ongoing basis with its Humana Game Changer program that profiles Senior Games athletes from around the country.
“We’re excited to embark on our 10th year as presenting sponsor of the National Senior Games and we’re honored to bring attention to the athletes who defy the odds and continue to live an active and healthy lifestyle,” said Humana Chief Consumer Officer Jody Bilney. “Through their hard work and dedication to their sports, Senior Games athletes deliver hope, motivation and inspiration to all.’”
Beginning June 2, NSGA will produce web features, news, and a photo gallery every day with The Games Daily Online to help inform the public and athletes, family and friends who cannot attend The Games. Visit NSGA.com/2017Daily through June 15, and the daily editions will be archived for ongoing access and enjoyment. NSGA’s social media presence on Facebook (National Senior Games), Twitter, and Instagram (@seniorgames1) will also post updates and interesting content. Hashtags for The Games are #SeniorGames2017 and #StartWithHealthy.