The Flame Arrival Ceremony presented by AstraZeneca, included a performance by Grammy Award winner Gloria Gaynor, remarks from Mrs. Dana Brown, Chair of the National Senior Games Association Board of Directors, as well as remarks from representatives of Games sponsors - Humana, AstraZeneca and Reliant Energy. Also addressing the large crowd gathered at Discovery Green were Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, and Dan Wolterman, President and CEO of the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and Chairman of the Houston Local Organizing Committee of the 2011 Senior Games. In his remarks, Wolterman said, “Houston is honored to host the 2011 National Senior Games. Our Local Organizing Committee has worked diligently to ensure these Games are the most successful in history, and to provide the athletes and visitors an exceptional experience in our community."
The Senior Games Cauldron, designed by Ward and Ames Special Events, engineered by Haynes Whaley and Associates, and built by Fretz Construction Company, will be given to the City of Houston at the conclusion of the Games and will remain as a legacy of the Games in the nation’s fourth largest city.
Athletes began checking-in at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Tuesday. Home to the AstraZeneca Athlete Village, the Center is also the location of competition in seven sports.
The Games have been conducted since 1987 by the National Senior Games Association, a member of the United States Olympic Committee.
Senior athletes on the road again for torch relay across Texas
2011 Senior Games Daily staff reports
Houston, June 8
Every two years, a parabolic mirror is used to light the Olympic flame. Commemorating the theft of fire by Prometheus from the Greek gods, the light that hits the lens ignites a flame that burns until the Olympic Games end. In this tradition, the Fitness Flame torch for The 2011 Summer National Senior Games presented by Humana was lit June 8 from the grounds of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Johnson Space Center to begin an 8-day journey across Texas in the Reliant Energy Torch Relay.
Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham lit the torch and carried it first, launching the relay.“The Ancient Greeks had it right; Healthy mind and a sound body,” Cunningham said.More than 20 athletes carried the torch during the modified relay. Honored speakers at the launch included Dayna Steele, Houston radio personality, Phil Godfrey, president & CEO of the National Senior Games Association; Stephen Morisseau, Reliant Energy director of public relations and communications; Bill Krueger, a former Senior Games athlete and member of the Texas and National High School Basketball Hall of Fame as Texas' most-winning basketball coach; and Richard Allen, Johnson Space Center director.
Corpus Christi, June 9
On its second stop, the Reliant Energy Torch Relay traveled to Corpus Christi. The torch bearers took laps around the flight deck of the USS Lexington where retired USS Lexington Captain and Senior Games athlete F. W. "Rocco" Montesano ran the first leg.
Joe Adame, mayor of Corpus Christi, spoke along with Montesano and Rick Hayley, founding member of the Mayor's Fitness Council and current member of the Governor's Fitness Council.
San Antonio, June 10
Athletes at the San Antonio relay were very enthusiastic and cheered each other on. Former University of Texas Longhorn and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Wane McGarity, met Senior Games Torch Relay crew member Randle Jackson, who played the same position at Texas A&M University for two years. McGarity joked with Jackson and offered advice and encouragement.
The relay ended in front of the Alamo, a famous Texas historical landmark. Alamo Committee Chair Melinda Navarro of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas met the relay crew in front. Maridel Prentiss, a Senior Games athlete and long-time member of DRT met with Navarro, and relay crew member John Irish, a direct descendent of Sam Houston participated in the event as well.
Del Moon, torch relay director, said everyone involved in the San Antonio relay was friendly and welcoming.
“We didn't want the day to end,” Moon said.
Austin, June 11
Austin has often been called the "Fittest City in America," and the Senior Games athletes from the area lived up to the reputation. Whether jogging or walking with the torch, the 28 Austinites gave the Senior Games escort crew a good workout as they carried the Fitness Flame. Even though the distance of the Austin relay was longer than any other city relay in our schedule, the torchbearers actually finished the activity ahead of the expected time.
The relay ended with 73-year-old Senior Games track and field legend Marion Coffee-Carney making a long jog to the statue of singer Stevie Ray Vaughn. Coffee-Carney said she does not keep count of all the awards she has earned.
"I don't remember- I just think about getting the next one!" she said.
Upon her return, Coffee-Carney passed the torch to 91-year-old Senior Games golfer Phillip Shaw, who marched the Fitness Flame to the podium to begin closing remarks.
Arlington, June 12
In Lone Star State fashion, the torch relay at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington enjoyed a Texas-sized crowd.
More than 50 Senior Games athletes and a large posse of friends and family members braved triple-digit heat to carry the Fitness Flame.
The last lap around the west plaza of the mammoth stadium featured four Texas State Senior Games Hall Of Fame members who ran a collective lap to bring the torch to the podium.
They included track stars Wayne Bennett and Phyllis Provost, followed by athlete Shelly Whitlock, a TSGA board member, and Ed Roberts, a National Senior Games board member who was recognized as much for his long-time state and national volunteer service as his prowess in shuffleboard.
The Silver Bullets led by Whitlock and the Texas All Stars led by Kay Seemayer, a state, national and world Senior Games medalist, also participated.
College Station, June 13
Aggie pride and spirit abounded when the relay made its way to College Station, the home of Texas A&M University.
Those in attendance watched as Senior Games and Reliant Energy representatives and the National Championship-winning Texas A&M women’s basketball team lapped Texas A&M’s Reed Arena to the beat of the Aggie War Hymn.
The highlight victory lap began with a torch salute by Doug Tremaine, Director of Brazos Valley Senior Games, followed by the Ag Silvers senior women’s basketball team and other Senior Games athletes and finished with Aggie basketball champs Maryann Baker and Catherine Snow bringing the Fitness Flame.
The women’s basketball program began its girls’ minicamps Monday, and over 150 middle and high school girls braved the midday heat to cheer on the torchbearers. Aggie coach Gary Blair shared some words of appreciation for the Senior Games.
“The gray hairs, blue hairs and no hairs are among our most supportive fans of women’s basketball at Reed Arena,” Blair said.
Beaumont, June 14
In tribute to Texas energy history, the Fitness Flame went to Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont.
The relay featured two Beaumont residents: Robert Kocot, a 72-year-old runner, and Claudette Warren, 58.
Kocot brought his son to the relay to help encourage him to stay fit and active. Both jogged a circuit around the replica 1900 oil boomtown to applause from onlookers.
Warren is a school teacher who will compete in basketball and track in Houston.
“She was so excited that when her orbit of the complex was almost completed she waved her hand and took an extra lap,” Moon said. “This delighted the others cheering her on.”
Beaumont is the home of one of the greatest female Olympians in history. Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias achieved outstanding success in golf, basketball and track and field. She was named the 10th greatest North American athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN and the ninth greatest athlete of the 20th Century by the Associated Press.
Galveston, June 15
In its final stop before returning to Houston, the torch relay arrived in Galveston. More than 35 torchbearers traveled through the Moody Gardens resort. Galveston Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Sanderson opened the ceremony. Bill Krueger, who also participated in the relay launch, spoke along with Sanderson and Mario Rabago, executive director of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees.
Galveston local athlete, Vicki Blythe, 56, carried the torch. Blythe will be competing in discus, javelin, and shot put at the National Senior Games.