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Games of Texas Bring Lone Star Olympics To Waco

Aug. 6, 2010

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Mark Lord is executive director of TAAF, the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation. 2010 marks the twenty-fifth time that TAAF has staged the Games of Texas, an Olympic style event that harnesses the talents of athletes across the state in a celebration of amateur sports. Despite over 200,000 participants in programs statewide, and over 7000 athletes converging on Waco this weekend, TAAF and the Games of Texas have flown somewhat under the radar to many in a sports-crazy state. In 1985, they began with a bang. Lord believes that over 3500 participated in a wide array of sports like track, swimming, boxing, and table tennis. It's only grown from there in both athlete participation and event options. While other states have games, the participation and options here in Texas are unmatched.

Lord said the athletes are all members of local parks and recreation departments statewide. They range in age and ability in eleven sports this year, with track and swimming as the marquee events. But it goes far beyond that. Jeff Goodman is president elect of TAAF and superintendent of Waco Parks and Recreation, which organizes this year's games. He says the opportunity to customize sports beyond those required is a unique way for the host communities to showcase what makes them special.

Goodman and the Waco Parks and Recreation Department know well what it takes to make the games not only unique to Waco, but also how to ensure they run without a hitch. This is the 6th time the city has hosted the games, more than any other across Texas.

For example, they expect hundreds of fans at venues not known for hosting spectators--places like the city pool.

So a grandstand company sets up stadium there with temporary seating for 1000 people. And that's just at one location. Over a dozen venues will host several thousand athletes in scores of events. It takes teamwork, several months of preparation, and cooperation from city organizations, schools, and even local churches, all of whom will host the competition.

The community is involved as well, as Waco Parks and Recreation recruited approximately 1000 volunteers to do everything from picking up cones on the track to keeping official times. They'll do it again in 2012, as this is the first of two consecutive summers the city will play host to the games. It's a team effort that pays off for Waco, and past hosts like Midland, College Station, and the Metroplex. Conservative estimates list an economic impact of between 3 and 4 million dollars in just one weekend. Opening ceremonies are tonight along Waco's Brazos River at Indian Spring Park at 7 p.m., with a parade and fireworks. The 25th Games of Texas wind down Sunday and conclude with lifeguarding Monday morning. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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