Birmingham is honored this year to host the 31st Annual Senior Games, June 2-15, 2017. Pretty much what they sound like, the Senior Games are the equivalent of “Senior Olympics,” (in fact, they were once called the “National Senior Olympic Games” before the United States Olympic Committee weighed in). That’s right, this is where the fifty-and-over crowd gathers to prove that just because you have your AARP card doesn’t mean you have to hang up your sprint spikes and stow your javelin.
This June, more than 10,000 men and women aged 50 and over, (plus the spectators they bring with them), will descend on Birmingham to try their hand at one or more of 19 different events ranging from shuffleboard to swimming to triathlon. Since the first event in 1987, participation has grown by 7,500 plus, and the number of events has increased from 15 to 19. This summer, 101-year-old Julia Hawkins will be running the 50- and 100-meter sprints; she started when she was 80. Here, 93-year-old Hazel Hassen Bey will compete at bowling, and 89-year-old Lee Stadem, one of eight athletes to have participated in every Senior Games to date, will be back.
Joining the Ranks
In hosting the Senior Games, Birmingham joins the ranks of cities such as St. Louis, MO (where the games originated), Orlando, Houston, and Pittsburg. Organizers found Birmingham to be nicely appointed for the games, with plenty of venues close in to the city center – no small feat when the games call for venues for sports such as pickleball, a fast-paced game played with a paddle and heavy version of a wiffle ball that brings together elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong on a badminton-sized court. They’ll also be enjoying Birmingham’s state-of-the-art CrossPlex and a number of other venues like Oak Mountain State Park, the Hoover Met, and Highland Park Golf Course.
No Small Feat
You don’t just walk on to the Senior Games and compete. As with any other serious national athletic competition, athletes must qualify at a sanctioned state-level event. In other words, don’t come out to watch this event expecting to see Weird Old Uncle Harry compete at skittles. These folks take their events seriously and will very likely give some of us couch-spud types a serious inferiority complex. Consider, for example, Dottie Gray, the first woman over 90 to run the 5,000 meter, who didn’t start running until she was 54 years-old, and who has run numerous 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons. These folks are serious, and truly admirable.
In case you’d like to help out
Running an event of this magnitude is no small undertaking.
In fact, keeping all of this clipping along at a record-setting pace will require somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 volunteers. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can register at http://nsga.com/volunteer.
Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex
Birmingham Southern University
Brunswick Zone Riverview Lanes
Hoover Metropolitan Stadium Complex
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Oxmoor Valley
Shelby County High School (Columbiana)